The University of Iowa (UI) has dedicated two rooms of the Iowa Memorial Union as a prayer space for its growing Muslim student population, which is required to pray five times per day.
“We’ve had students who have tried to find empty rooms, I’ve even heard of a student using a stairwell so we did think this was a very important and necessary thing to respond to,” Dean of Students Lyn Redington said, according to CBS2Iowa. “The University of Iowa is a global, international institution, but we want all of our students to feel welcomed.”
“Normally when I’m on campus, I try to look for an empty room, which may be hard in the day with all these students or if I can’t find a room I’ll go to the top of a staircase and just pray there,” said Mohammed Ismail, a member of the Muslim Student Association (MSA).
The UI MSA posted an announcement to Facebook about the opening of the prayer space which read, “For the first time, Muslim students at the University of Iowa have a safe place to pray on campus.”
“The Muslim Students Association (MSA) of the United States and Canada was incorporated in January 1963, when members of the Muslim Brotherhood came together at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with the goal of ‘spreading Islam as students in North America,’” observes the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT).
Islamic extremism is on the rise on college and university campuses across the United States. The spread of radical Islamism on campuses has proven to be an effective tool to garner support and gain legitimacy, exploiting the right of free association with academic institutions. International and domestic groups that advocate extremist or radical causes frequently host lectures and other events on campuses to shore up support and recruit members. Indeed, universities are a fertile field for radicals searching for the next generation of activists and sympathizers.
Muslim UI student Arham Pasha said he was accustomed to having a prayer room at his former school.
“I really learned the value of having that space,” Pasha said. “Kind of made a sense of home for me, at the same time a sense of community. I’m hoping that this room takes on, both of these rooms, take on that same viewpoint and goal.”
According to the news report, “Islam is all-inclusive,” and, thus the prayer rooms are “open to everyone.”
“Islam is represented, not in its true form by many,” Pasha said. “We would want to kind of show the majority perspective and the only way that perspective comes is when questions are asked and answered without any boundaries.”
“It’s not just for Muslims, it’s for the students at the University of Iowa and people who are interested in Islam,” Ismail added.