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Muslim students experience overcrowding in library prayer space

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

When it comes to prayer spaces on campus, many Muslim students turn to the M.D. Anderson Library, however some fear the space is becoming too congested.

Ali Ardda is a freshman computer science major, who identifies as Muslim. He has been to the library’s basement only three times this semester but plans to keep coming.

“I think it is a really great place where like-minded people who follow the same religion and have the same beliefs gather,” Ardda said. “Then they have discussions and do work together.”

While Ardaa acknowledged that the basement could at times be somewhat crowded, he hasn’t experienced excessive congestion.

“Today I was here between  1-2 p.m.,” Arda said. “There were a lot of people but not to the point where it was unbearable.”

Malik Ben Nasr is a senior kinesiology major who also identifies as Muslim. He has frequented the library basement since he was a freshman.

“The library is the main congregational center of the campus,” Nasr said. “For the most part, even though I am sure perhaps the Student Center was intended for that purpose. It’s really not the case.”

Nasr thinks the basement becomes overcrowded during prayer times.

“When we pray jama’ah (congregational prayer) I feel many times it is overcrowded,” Malik said.

Afeeq Hasan Abid Hussain is a senior mechanical engineering student who identifies as Muslim. He also frequents the library basement.

“There is no dedicated place for ablution,” Hussain said. “But for the most part, the basement is a good place for Muslims to hang out and socialize as well as worship”

Ablution refers to the process of washing specific parts of the body prior to prayer and is an important part of Islamic religious practice. Not having a dedicated space for ablution means that there is usually a lot of water on the restroom floor. 

Chris Stipes, UH director of media relations said in a written statement that the University respects freedom of religion and assembly.

“The University of Houston respects freedom of religion and assembly and values the diversity of students’ beliefs,” Stipes said. “As a state-funded public institution,  UH cannot designate building spaces intended specifically for religious use.”

Stipes also added that the Muslim students have historically been using the library basement and that the library has received overcrowding complaints. 

“Recognizing our responsibility to foster an open, welcoming environment on campus for all students, faculty and staff,” Stipes said. “UH Libraries and the Division of Student Affairs have been working with the Muslim Student Association, with the support of the Student Government Association, to identify more suitable prayer/meditation/reflection spaces on campus for MSA students, as well as other students.” 

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