Offering support

Lauren Sluss News Reporter

For Khalifa Alaqeel, being a Muslim student on campus was not met with difficulty or struggle—his religion has been constantly supported by the programs Oregon State University has offered.

He found comfort through the Ettihad Cultural Center and University Housing and Dining Services’ commitment to providing for students during Ramadan.

“I’m really comfortable here, and OSU has given rights to us as Muslim people,” said chemical engineering junior, Alaqeel. “There are a lot of Muslim students here, and OSU is taking care of them. If we ask anything for religious purposes, they will always help us out.”

OSU’s commitment to aiding Muslim students has been restructured this year with the establishment of a multi-faith prayer room in the ECC.

In years past, Muslim students had used the third floor of the Valley Library behind the archives for a prayer space, but were met with opposition, according to Mohamed.

“We’ve requested a room from the library several times, but the library didn’t feel as though it should give religious support, and that wasn’t their goal,” Mohamed said. “The library actually tried to stop us, but they eventually gave up on that and accepted that the Muslim students go there to pray.”

This year, however, both the INTO OSU program in the International Living-Learning Community and the ECC located in the Student Experience Center offer prayer spaces and footbaths for Muslim students. Although these spaces are new, they still might not be enough, according to Alaqeel.

“The more the better,” Alaqeel said. “Muslim people are spread around campus, so just those two spaces are not enough. A lot of people don’t know about the SEC prayer space, and would go home or find a very secluded area to pray.”

OSU is looking to continue to support Muslim students in years to come through the re-establishment of the Muslim Student Association. Being dormant for the past two years, the MSA is currently working on writing a new constitution and officially returning to OSU next year in order to help the Muslim community, according to the Vice President of MSA, Omar Mohamed.

“The point of the MSA has been to help serve the Muslim community at OSU, educate the general student population about Muslims and the struggles and needs of different Muslims at OSU and educate them generally about Islam,” Mohamed said.

The MSA will provide Muslim students a community of support, which can help Muslim students through their OSU experience, according to Ahmed Al-Manji, senior in mechanical engineering.

“It’s not just OSU that provided me with the environment that helped me practice my religion, it’s the community within OSU that made me comfortable with living here,” Al-Manji said. “I engage a lot with people from my own country, mostly Arab people who identify as Muslims, and that’s why I didn’t experience a lot of difficulties.”

For other Muslim students, however, the transition to OSU might be more difficult. Senior and radiation health physics major Roa’a AlBish’s transition to OSU may have proved easier if she had known about more resources, such as the Ettihad Cultural Center.

“When I first came, I had difficulties. When I got more involved in the OSU community, however, things got better,” AlBish said. “I think if more people knew about the ECC, they would feel more welcomed when they first come here.”

One of the programs in which OSU is striving to support Muslim students on campus begins this weekend. In recognition of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, UHDS will be hosting a Ramadan Meal Program to allow students and their dependents a space to gather and break nightly fast with halal meals. The meals provided by UHDS for Ramadan will begin on June 5 and lasts through June 9.

Ramadan begins either this Saturday or Sunday night, depending on where the moon has been sited. Although those practicing Ramadan will not know its official start date until Saturday, UHDS will begin hosting meals Sunday night, according to Jacqueline Chambers, international student housing coordinator.

“We are starting the event on Sunday so either the students have had a day of fasting, or they will be able to eat one more hearty meal before beginning their fast,” Chamber said.

Those observing Ramadan partake in a fast from sunrise to sundown, and the fast is broken at the end of the day. Arnold Dining Center will be serving halal meals for ten dollars to break the fast from 9 p.m. until 10:30 p.m., and will remain open until midnight to provide a prayer space for students.

UHDS also reserved the first floor lounges of every residence hall for prayer spaces to be used both at sunrise and sunset.

The halal meals and prayer spaces will work toward meeting the needs of Muslim students on campus, according to Assistant Director for Dining, Nutrition and Sustainability Tara Sanders.

“It’s about serving some of those basic needs and making sure that the nutritional needs are met and making sure that students have safe spacing in their living areas to be able to practice,” Sanders said. “What we need to do is provide a service to meet these needs.”

With the help of UHDS, ECC and the MSA, OSU has provided students of the Islamic faith with a support, according to Mohamed.

“I’ve been here since 2007, and over that time period the MSA has been on and off, but regardless there has always been strong support from OSU,” Mohamed said.

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