Thanks to a campus-wide collaboration, on Friday, Feb. 15, the HWS community opened the Muslim Student Center, the newest space at the Colleges for prayer and community engagement.
The space is host to weekly Friday Prayers at 1:20 p.m, as well as frequent discussions. All are invited – and encouraged – to attend the prayers and meetings.
Facilitated by the student-led group Project Nur, an opening reception for the Muslim Student Center was held at the Carr McGuire House, with a tour of the new prayer space toward the end of the event. The center, which is open to all and designated as a space for meaningful dialogue amongst faiths, is on the ground-level of Stewardson House located at 780 S. Main St. The Carr McGuire House is currently the substance free theme house.
With the nearest mosques in Rochester and Syracuse, the center provides not only a space that enriches the religious and cultural diversity on campus, but also a place to pray that is easy to access.
“We would love for this to be a center for the entire community,” says Amira Abdulkadir ’14, a member of Project Nur, which is a nationwide club that provides a base for the Muslim community. “Friday prayers are meant to be a congregational event. This is a meeting place for all.”
Abdulkadir says that although she and the members of Project Nur have dedicated themselves in working toward the creation of the center, it is an effort that has long-been in motion and has pooled resources from the HWS community and beyond.
In addition to assistance of faculty advisers Assistant Professor of Education Khuram Hussain and Associate Professor of Religious Studies Etin Anwar, the students also credit the realization of the Muslim Student Center to the guidance of Chaplain Lesley Adams, and to the work of HWS Buildings and Grounds, including Senior Project Manager Christopher Button and Project Manager Janine DeBolt, who each helped to lead the transformation of the space in Stewardson House.
For efforts in helping to establish the center, the students of Project Nur also offer their appreciation to the Religious Studies Department, the Religious Life Office, Director of the Office of Intercultural Affairs Alejandra Molina, the Office of the President, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Shalahudin Kafrawi, Vice President for Student Affairs Robb Flowers, Director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning Katie Flowers, and Syed Zaidi ’12, who helped to start the Project Nur chapter at the Colleges.
As part of the celebratory events, Oz Sultan, former spokesperson for Park51, the Mosque next to Ground Zero, presented a lecture on social media and the future of democracy in the Muslim world at The Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men. He also offered remarks at the reception at the Carr McGuire House.
Last semester, in addition to starting the process of finding the space for the center, Project Nur, with the help of advisers Hussain and Anwar, began weekly Friday prayers, welcoming all students to join them at that important time. Needing a place to meet, Anwar says the group had at first sought to use various locations until a room was designated for prayer.
“When I joined Project Nur for prayers, it just felt like I was home with my parents,” says Aifan Morshed ’15. Morshed explains that Friday prayer is not only a significant spiritual time, but also a time of connecting with one’s family. “It lifted up my spirits after a long week of classes and work. It felt like I finally had a place to go; like I was finally at home on campus.”
Having access to the Muslim Student Center provides an important place for worship and engagement.
“The center serves as a place of worship, but also as a space for students to share their experience and get to know each other,” Anwar says. “It is a place for all community members from the Colleges, whether students, faculty, staff or alums. It broadens students’ learning experiences and enhances exposure to diversity.”
George Trimble ’14, a dedicated member of Project Nur, says that although he is not Muslim, he too has found a home with Project Nur. “I have never felt more welcome,” he says in regard to his first Friday spent at prayer. “I was so warmly invited. I knew that that was where I belonged.”
The students hope that in addition to the prayers, members of campus will take the time to attend bi-weekly meetings to discuss matters of faith and to explore Islam, especially those who know little of the religion and the culture. In the future, Project Nur hopes to hold frequent lectures, group dialogues, movie nights and interfaith collaborations. Respecting the grounds as a place of Muslim worship, guests are asked to remove their footwear upon entering the center prayer space.
“Islam is not just a religion,” Abdulkadir says. “This room is not just a room; it is an extension of our faith. We want to work our best to make people comfortable, to truly bring people together.”
With the new space available to serve a variety of important purposes, Adams says seeing the center through to fruition is a significant moment at the Colleges.
“We are very excited to have an appropriate space on campus for Muslim students, staff and faculty to pray,” she says. “We hope that the new space will signal a welcome to Muslim families as they consider Colleges.”
The photo above features members of Project Nur.