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New prayer space for Muslims opens on campus

New prayer space for Muslims opens on campus

What was once a residence hall break room now serves a higher purpose.

A Muslim prayer space, or masjid, is now part of Clements Hall, providing Muslims on campus a place to practice their religious services in a quiet and contemplative environment. New drywall, carpet and other amenities were installed to turn the unused room into a new place of worship.

“Otterbein is very serious about inclusion, and this is inclusion,” said University Chaplain Judy Guion-Utsler. “This is a place not just for students, but for Muslim faculty and staff as well. Creating this space actively demonstrates the institution’s commitment to welcoming all who want to learn.”

Otterbein University is home to 24 self-identified Muslim students and a few faculty and staff. Beginning with the formation of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) during the 2013-14 school year, a need was put forth for by MSA for a prayer space to be established on campus. Muslims conduct ritual prayers five times a day, so a convenient and accessible space to fit into busy university schedules was much needed. With the help of Director of Residence Life Tracy Benner, the under-utilized break room was identified as a potential space.

The masjid became usable before the end of last spring semester in March 2016. Prayer rugs, a table and chairs for scripture study, new light fixtures and a storage cabinet were included at the beginning, with more additions to be included later. A private bathroom, only accessible through the masjid, offers an area for ritual cleansing away from the public restrooms in the building. Different styles of bathroom fixtures, such as sprayers with a floor drain, will potentially be installed to make the process easier. Chaplain Guion-Utsler also wants to add hooks to hang hijabs, veils worn by women, for those who do not wear them outside of religious services but who require them in the masjid.

“Careful planning and consideration towards being respectful to the religion’s beliefs and practices went in to our decision making,” says Guion-Utlser. “With a few updates, the break room was the perfect choice.”

A grand opening for the space is slated for September 2016, before Eid-al Adha.