Further Updates 25 September 2007:
If you're getting here from Google, you can find our reaction to the Administration's e-mail to the student body over here.
Last we spoke a couple of days ago, I was doing my best to bring your attention to things going on at George Mason University
, here in scenic Fairfax, Virginia. I promised to take a walk around campus and photograph some of the things we discussed, and so I have done. But first, I'd like to clear up a few misconceptions which are floating around the blogosphere, before things get too
First and foremost, the Muslim Students of America here at GMU is not
proposing that we build a mosque here on campus. This misconception is due to my attempted turn of phrase "mosque-on-campus." As I pointed out in the comments over at LGF
, it would've been more clear for me to use "mosque-of-sorts," as the space that the MSA is proposing differs from a mosque only in the literal sense. In all other aspects (namely, the exclusive instruction of Islam within the confines), the two are the same.
Next, I previously mentioned that GMU had installed ceremonial foot-washing basins for wudu
bathroom in the Johnson Center. This is incorrect, as I verified today. The basins are installed in every bathroom on the northeastern
half of the building, and there are none present in the southwestern
half. Considering some of our nation's geopolitical divisions these days, perhaps that's appropriate, but I do apologize for my mischaracterization nonetheless.
Finally, and this is the most upsetting thing I've found so far, I'd like to point out that there is one and only one
"Prayer" area in the Johnson Center—rather than the four I had thought
were there—and it is located on the north corner of the third foor. All of the other areas that I had thought were for prayer and/or meditation are merely called "lounges," and are generally filled with students doing what they do best—okay, the second
best—thing they do best: Studying
. I didn't take any pictures of these other areas today, as that would've disturbed the students in there who were actually
for their finals. If the areas are free on the day of my next final, I'll do my best to pop in and share them with you then.
So, what we're left with in our journey of discovery, is that the Johnson Center was built with the intent of having a multi-faith "prayer and meditation" area, where all students could go to celebrate their faith and get in touch with their Deity, in whatever manner they do. This is the very same space that the MSA is proposing that they expand and take over fully as an "Islamic Education Center."
central building on Campus.
Yet, on this very same campus, there are no other
permanent University-sponsored areas of prayer or worship. At least, that I've found. The only other area I could find that even remotely
seemed to be assigned for religious purposes was the Campus Ministry office
, located in Student Union Building I. Notice that every other
religious group on campus, be it the Catholic Campus Ministry
or the GMU Hillel
, shares this same tiny
space! What makes the MSA so special that it needs its own area?
Oh, and while SUB-I was
the center of campus back in the 80's, the completion of the Johnson Center in 1995 shifted the entire commons area to a newer part of Campus. Nowadays, SUB-I seems very quiet, other than the restaurant and entertainment area in the basement. At least it has a Chick-fil-a
—I couldn't imagine life without eating mor chick'n
, but I do digress...
So, what we remain with, is the sense that a particular group on campus, who has been conceded to by the Campus administration and Student Government on more than one occasion already
, is still
not happy with their standing on campus, and wishes to have privileges that are far above and beyond what has been granted to other groups.
I protest this entirely. Let the MSA move into the Campus Ministry offices with everyone else, and build their own, privately-funded "Education Center" elsewhere.
It's not like the Middle East is short of petrol-dollars or anything, is it?
I've got a handful of photographs from the Fairfax campus in the extended body of this article, if you're interested in seeing them. And, in case you need further proof, you're more than welcome to e-mail me at bledbet1-at-gmu-dot-edu
. I have nothing to hide, and neither should anyone else involved in this dialogue. If you're at GMU, I'd love to hear anything I've posted here be disputed, even if the campus IT department ends up mad at me as a result.