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Time for a permanent space
Until recently, St. Thomas had set aside space for Muslim prayers in a basement area of the student center. But it was a large open area where “people would come and go,” said Prof. Adil Ozdemir, who co-directs the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Center and often leads prayer services. Nor was there an easy way to do the required ritual washing before prayers.
“As our numbers grew, and we saw the need, we determined we needed to come up with a more permanent space,” said Lange, the dean of students. And “we knew that it was important to students to be able to wash before they prayed.”
So this year, school officials decided to renovate space in Loras Hall, a century-old office building that used to be part of the seminary, and install separate wash stations in the men’s and women’s restrooms, at a cost of about $60,000. Known as “Wudu” stations, they have stools and faucets designed to make it easy to wash both hands and feet.
The decision was a pleasant surprise to students like Aljahdali, head of the Saudi club. “Yeah, I think it’s surprising and something really nice,” he said.
To some, it was a symbol of the lengths to which the school has gone to make them feel accepted.
“They didn’t have to do this,” said Alowayyid, who will finish her studies in December. “But they did it, which I appreciate.”
Asked if she could imagine a Saudi university doing the same for visiting Christians, she replied: “Not in your wildest dreams. Sorry to say, but that’s the truth. That’s reality. There is no other faith, other than Islam, that’s practiced in Saudi Arabia.”
But that’s one thing she’s learned about America, she said. “When you come to the United States, the religious freedom is open to anyone.”
Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384