The Ghost of Snapped Shot

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GMU: Broadside Stands Up to Inequality

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.


The George Mason University Broadside, our student newspaper, is taking a shot at actually investigating the MSA's de-facto takeover of our controversial "meditation" space. Check it out:

Inequality 2007
Controversy over the Johnson Center’s third floor meditation space has continued through the summer, following a Broadside article in the May issue that sparked an increase in debate and coverage. [Ed.:—Be sure to see our photo essay for a firsthand account from this Fall.]

Though the meditation space is open to use by all students, the Muslims at Mason tend to use it more than others, an issue that has garnered attention from the student population.

“A meditation area fulfills a need. Muslims, no doubt, use these areas almost exclusively, but Islam is the only religion that describes how to pray, when to pray and how many times to pray,” said Luqman Mahmood, Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Association member. “Other religions do not have such a clear teaching about prayer, which is why Muslims use these areas so much in proportion to people of other faiths.” [Ed.:—I think Christ was pretty clear about His teaching on prayer, and from what I know of Judaism, their prayer structure is fairly well-defined, too...]


Surprisingly enough, the Broadside provides concrete examples of the MSA's bullying, which you can find beyond the fold:

Incidentally: (this would be The Fold)

Some people are never happy, no matter how hard you try and please appease them:

With the new fall semester underway, George Mason University is introducing the option of halal food on campus..., a type permissible under Islamic law. (...) Now that the food has been worked into Sodexho dining however, the reaction from halal meat-eaters falls short. Suehyb Alkhatib, vice president of the MSA, said that the members of MSA who tried the food were not pleased. “The food was stale and not very flavorful,” Alkhatib said. “It was a much lower quality than the non-halal food.”

There's a rational explanation for this, Suehyb: It's a Zionist conspiracy.
And now, back to our main discussion:

“Many Jewish students have expressed interest in using the space but felt too intimidated or felt that such a move might be too provocative to follow through on,” a statement from the Hillel Student Board said. Other religious groups on campus were contacted for comment but no others had responded by deadline.

...

Joseph Sorgini, senior government and international politics major, spoke of an encounter in the meditation space when he went to go pray a rosary in March.

“I had no sooner finished “and the Holy Spirit, Amen” in my head when two men approached me and asked me to get up,” Sorgini said. “I was hesitant at first, so one of the individuals responded with the statement ‘What ever you have in your hand there, you can not use that here.’”

Sorgini was told by the men, who identified themselves as members of MSA but would not say their names, that the Space was an area designated for Muslim prayer use. He was told that he should have removed his shoes as well.

“I apologized for the confusion, but told him that I was made aware that this space was open for all religions or those who use meditation for non-religious purposes to use,” Sorgini said. “The first male, who had responded earlier about the rosary in my hand, told me that this was not true, and asked that I leave. Not wanting to find myself in the middle of an argument, I exchanged goodbyes with them, and left the area.”

...

“Mason giving priority to a single religious group, as they appear to be doing, is a violation of the law,” The Hillel Student Board said. “However, the existence of this space is not threatening, just imbalanced. Mason should be providing a spiritual space for use by its students; however, it should be one open to everyone. There are already substantial spaces on campus which could be used for religious purposes, though they can be hard to get hold of. The meditation space could also be used by all if it is treated fairly.”


I actually disagree with Hillel a touch on that last part—Mason is not doing any such thing, by "policy." Their inaction, on the other hand, is allowing the MSA to bully other students (see Joseph's story above), but that in and of itself isn't a violation of the law. (Whether the MSA should bone up and provide their own private worship space is still a point of debate, I would think.)

I received a note from Rebecca Fulton of the Broadside:

Just wanted to let you know that I recently worked on an article along side Rachael Dickson of GMU's Broadside and I found that the footbaths were installed with the building 12 years ago while the meditation space was only created 5-7 years ago.


Based on my memory, Rebecca, the bathrooms that currently have the footbaths in them were remodeled sometime around Fall 2003 or Spring 2004, when I first started attending the school. I'm wondering if these spaces were originally janitorial space or not—and am eagerly looking forward to hearing back from you, if you happen to find that out.

 Tags: gmu msa Ye Olde Dominion


Comments:

#1 mojo 12-Sep-2007
“It was a much lower quality than the non-halal food.”

And you'd know that because?...
#2 captainfish 12-Sep-2007
Too bad Rebecca did not provide a link to such an article.

Thanks for the update. I hope that those reporters from the Broadside are not harassed in any way for this story. It would not surprise me if they received a visit from the administration telling them to tone it down a bit.

I dont doubt that the MSA feels attached to the area. They seem to be the only group really using it. It would be interesting to do a time-study on who uses the room and how much it is used by each type of use. THAT would be reporting instead of anecdotal stories.
#3 Brian C. Ledbetter 12-Sep-2007
The comments on the SGA forum are priceless:

GMUslim: [i]Nobody is stopping you from going there, you freely CHOOSE not to go there. So don't complain to the SGA, complain to yourself.

And tell me how is it a mosque when there are people doing yoga and meditation there.[/i]

(I [i]chose[/i] to go there and use the space, but that was late at night. Try going there around 5:30–6:00 if you're Kuf'r, and see what kind of luck you have.)

hzeitoun: [i]Quote from above: "there are no plans to change this in the future." That's what the board said and they won't take back their words, even if you keep crying. so please drop the subject. It's over.[/i]

Won't take back their words? Pleaaase. If there's one thing about squishy University administrations, it's that they almost [i]always[/i] take back their words.

Don't get me wrong, I am [i]not[/i] arguing against the practise of religion on campus—what I continue to have a problem with is that one religion is basically being given [i]carte blanche[/i] to take over a "public" space for their own use, [i]permanently[/i], while all of the [i]other[/i] religious organisations on campus are [b]forced[/b] to go and loan/lease out their own space.

Heck, the Catholics are the only group to get it right so far: They built their own [i]private chapel[/i] right off Campus grounds.

You would think that with all of that oil wealth, something like that wouldn't be beyond the MSA's grasp.

Regards,
Brian
#4 jonolan 12-Sep-2007
The non-muslim should just go there, but record any abuse they receive. It can be later in in hate crime trials against the islamists.

Failing that, bring a few Jimmy Dean sausage biscuits!
#5 Peggy U 12-Sep-2007
Good grief! Why did it post that many times? I only hit the "submit" button once!
#6 Brian C. Ledbetter 12-Sep-2007
Peggy,

I think you might've hit the "Preview" button by accident—there's a "slight" issue in that function that I haven't gotten around to fixing yet.

You'll need to re-post what you were trying to say, of course... :)

Regards,
Brian
#7 thanos 12-Sep-2007
Interesting that the commentary comes from an Ahmadi Muslim, in some countries they are declared Takfir or non-muslim. In Pakistan at one of the medical colleges there is a similar fight going on between Ahmadi's and Sunni's over who gets to use the mosque and when, I'll see if I can't find a reference or the newstory. The Sunni students are all members of Jamaat Islami, the organization in Pakistan that essentially apostasized a whole sect of Islam nationwide a few years back.
#8 Peggy U 12-Sep-2007
Thanks, Brian! What I had said, before I navigated away and lost it, was that GMU should just get out of the religion business altogether. Convert the space to classrooms or storage and let people go back to fending for themselves spiritually. The truly spiritual don't need the damned props. They can be flexible and adjust their own schedules and behavior to meet their needs. Props are only necessary for ritualistic cults.

Nobody is forcing any group of students to attend GMU. They can find a school near a mosque or a synagogue or a temple or a church or whatever somewhere. I'm sure there must be schools that meet these criteria. If a college near the desired house of worship doesn't offer the programs or the most favorable tuition - oh well, we all have to figure out what our priorities are going to be. Since when do we all have to be so pampered and catered to? How narcissistic is this expectation?

I do believe private colleges and universities should be free to affiliate themselves with religious organizations (and to not be pressured to accommodate others), as long as they advertise themselves as having these ties. There are too many special interests out there to please them all, so why even try to satisfy any of them? It's not worth it for the friction it creates! Isn't it asking enough of universities to address special educational concerns, without meddling in ancillary crap?
#9 Carol R 12-Sep-2007
The only cure for this contremps is devout and sincere prayer.

I suggest that Joseph ( and as many of his friends as the spirit moves ) need to go and pray the rosary MUCH MORE OFTEN. Daily, I should think. Ignoring the pushy ( but actually quite powerless ) MSA bullies. Let's see what the administration says if/when the :-)ahem :-) 'holy spirit' hits the fan.
#10 Tom 12-Sep-2007
That one group uses the space more than another is irrelevant, therefore, an article commenting on the relative usage levels would also be irrelevant. This is about the bullying of one user by other users who believe the area set aside for all, has become theirs by virtue of their usage level. Not too strong on the subtle, or even the obvious, are you Captainfish.
#11 Sam 12-Sep-2007
When are us“Infidels” going to wise up to the fact that Muslims in the Balad al Kufr (the “lands of the unbelievers” or, another translation would be “the lands of the “unclean””) are here as the scouts and advance troops of Islam and their job is to stake out territory--physical, religious, legal. cultural, political, social--and then constantly expand that territory and advance the Jihad by terror or by intimidation.

This is the face of “peaceful” Islam, as it uses intimidation and all the weapons a democracy, political correctness and Infidel weakness hands it to advance the day when Islam will rule all. Just baby steps here but unless stopped, and stopped hard, these Muslims will own the school in a few years, the state in a couple of decades or less and, eventually, the whole damn country. To see where denial, good manners, ignorance about Islam and appeasement is leading us, take a look at England and what has become of it.
#12 sultan knish 12-Sep-2007
Judaism actually enacts prayers three times a day at very specific times

Islam borrowed (stole) that, among many other things from Judaism right down to the religious definition of when day time occurs
#13 J'hn1 12-Sep-2007
"You would think that with all of that oil wealth, something like that wouldn't be beyond the MSA's grasp."

It is not beyond their finances, it is just recognized as not proper as long as dhimmis can be "encouraged" to pay proper tribute to Muslim causes.
#14 Sam 12-Sep-2007
For those who think I exaggerate about Muslim’s mindset, I invite them to look at this recent Washington Post article examining the content of Saudi produced textbooks used to teach Muslim children in the U.S. including those in Virginia http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=72&release=382

Of even more interest is an earlier Freedom House translation and analysis of many other Saudi produced texts used for teaching Muslims in the U.S. titled “Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Invade U.S. Mosques,” texts which are supposedly now withdrawn. http://www.freedomhouse.org/uploads/special_report/45.pdf.

I suggest that a reading of the Qur’an, Hadiths and Sira will show that rather than being just “hate ideology,” the beliefs and actions taught in these Saudi publications come straight from these three core books of Islam.
#15 Iowan 12-Sep-2007
You need to get some Rastafarians into the room to celebrate their sacraments.
#16 Passerby 12-Sep-2007
It's a 'Quiet Meditation Space', just tell the MSA guys to 'shush' themselves the moment they start speaking to you.

Excuse me ..

....SHUSH!
#17 Urban Infidel 12-Sep-2007
I suggest taking a tape recorder the next time.
#18 Melkior 12-Sep-2007
If this "meditation space" is officially non-denominational, and meant for quiet meditation, contemplation, and prayer, then several things need to happen.

First, definition of the originally intended university policy for the use of the space when it was built needs to be dredged up out of university records, printed, and POSTED in multiple locations there in that space for all to read. If a disagreement arises, the rules can be referred to.

Second, if barely anyone else was using the space except for the MSA, this does NOT mean it becomes the Muslims' de facto prayer space. It does NOT mean it becomes their "on campus mosque" by default. If the intended university policy was for the space to be shared, the Muslims MUST share. Their religion may teach that it supersedes all other religions, but there are lots of different types of people and if they can't or won't share, frankly they need to stop using that space and create one where they won't have to bully everyone else. I doubt they'll do this...it's not part of their demonstrated history. But I hope they'll surprise me.

Third, if in fact the space was intended to be shared equally by original official university policy, it is the duty of non-Muslim students who want to pray, contemplate, meditate, or simply sit quietly there to think by themselves, to point out the posted policy to the Muslim students, and tell them that they don't have a monopoly on the space.

Fourth, the University needs to be taken to task for not having the stones to enforce its own rules.

Fifth, if the Muslims don't like this scenario, they ought to consider leaving this country and moving to a majority Muslim country. In this country, public sites are supposed to be shared by all, equally. If that's an affront to their religion, they should go somewhere where they won't have to face that affront.
#19 davod 12-Sep-2007
Some time ago, I attended a briefing by a Muslim theologeon (he had studied all the major religions). He said that at the time it was ordained that Muslims should pray five times a day, Jews prayed eight times a day. A good marketing tool.
#20 LawHawk 12-Sep-2007
Maybe the purveyors of the religion of peace have figured out a legal principle called adverse possession. If they violate George Mason policy by keeping all others out of the area long enough, and their occupation of the area is sufficiently open and notorious, hostile and adverse, these clowns may realize that they could literally own the spot. Length of hostile possession varies from state to state, but it's ancient common law. I am a Lutheran but I say send in the Swiss Guards.
#21 muslimspy 13-Sep-2007
m.a.v., the baseball bat thing is more the Islamic approach to life. A better way is to photograph everyone who is MSA (a jihadist 'hitler youth') and bug the areas where they are plotting and preaching hatred and death to non-Muslims.
#22 Paul Hahn 13-Sep-2007
start reading jihadwatch.org for a mindfull.
#23 Brian C. Ledbetter 13-Sep-2007
"Muslims are Vermin,"

I heard you the first time, and have no intention of allowing this forum to degenerate into threats of physical violence. I know I personally don't appreciate when they're leveled at me, so out of courtesy, I'd appreciate it if you not level them at others here. Frustration is not an excuse for violence.

Feel free to contact me privately if you have a problem with this policy.

Regards,
Brian
#24 Jim Jinn 13-Sep-2007
Paul Hahn, JihadWatch is one of many excellent sites.
#25 marco 13-Sep-2007
i dont get it....anyone at anyschool will agree that college food of any origins/ make is HORRIBLE.....! argh this makes me mad
#26 Four Pointer 13-Sep-2007
Thinking of sending your kid to George Mason University for college? Better send a dhimmi tax with him. It will soon be overrun by the Islamofascists. It's bad enough the admin. caved on putting in footbaths for them. Now, the Muslims are beginning t...
#27 jayster 13-Sep-2007
If you want to get rid of the slimes, by a canned ham, pull out the ham and leave it somewhere in the room. Take the gunk that surounds the ham and spread it all over the room. For good measure get a used tampon and.....
#28 Geeyore 13-Sep-2007
It's too bad the GMU administration cannot use common sense to determine whether a full-blown religious rite meets or exceeds the intended scope of "prayer, meditation, and contemplation."

If we want to truly participate in the rituals of our faith, most of us go to our church, our temple, or our pagoda. We don't wall-off a section of a public and non-denominational "prayer, meditation, and contemplation" room and treat it as our church, our temple, our pagoda, or *our mosque*.

The MSA kids need to be taught some manners. The GMU administration needs an infusion of common sense and responsible caretaking.
#29 Blogster 13-Sep-2007
To the person who wrote the below:

GMU also needs to grow the stones to enforce its own policies and not wilt before the MSA. Why should one student religious group be given favor over another? This is a university funded by state taxpayer's taxes. This means that policies should be enforced for the equal treatment of all taxpayers, whether they are students themselves or the taxpayer's young adult children:

"The point is this:

Those two Muslim students who forced the Catholic student to stop praying using his rosary BULLIED a member of another religion out of what's supposed to be a non-denominational or "openly multi-denominational" quiet prayer area.

It isn't the MSA's defacto mosque.

Sure, Muslim students have every right to exercise their religion as any other American of other religions does, but to push or bully others out of that public area, and to make the assumption that just because barely anyone else uses it it automatically becomes exclusive to the MSA, is 100% WRONG.

The choice for the MSA is clear. Either:

1) Tolerate members of other religions using an area that is supposed to be open to EVERYONE when they come to pray, as that space was originally intended,

OR

2) Lobby the university to set up a prayer area SPECIFICALLY for Muslims in a separate space on a different part of campus

Failing that, why not ask your wealthy Saudi patrons (doesn't MSA-national get Saudi funding?) for the funds to be provided to GMU to set up an on-campus mosque exclusively for use by Muslims, (on a DIFFERENT site than the non-denominational "quiet meditation space") in the same way as the Catholics or Protestants might have their own chapels on campus...something a lot of universities have either on or directly off campus.

MSA needs to understand that such bullying is interpreted by students of other religions as the local MSA effort to expand the Caliphate and push other religions OUT.

While pushing other religions out may well be sanctioned in Qur'an, the fact is that this is STILL the United States of America and ANY place designated as open to ALL members of the student public will be viewed by non-Muslims as being open for their own equal-opportunity prayer use TOO.

This equal-opportunity approach is a treasured cultural value here in the US and by not respecting it, the MSA is certainly not winning friends to Islam. Instead, it's making enemies that way. Muslim students should think about it: The flashpoint here is the bullying of other religions away from that space when it was originally intended for EVERYONE'S use, NOT just the MSA's."
#30 obstreperous 14-Sep-2007
Send in wave after wave of people with smelly feet and body odour.

I could send hubbys work socks over there!

:)
#31 RM 15-Sep-2007
You can't base decisions on anecdotal evidences. The MSA has always maintained that this place is meant for everyone, in emails to its members and at meetings. In a meeting with the Johnson Center Operations that point was reiterated and the MSA agreed to have the dividers removed if that was what was intimidating other students. The school however never removed them until recently, after both articles were published--allowing for this controversy to continue. No officer has ever said the room is exclusively for Muslims. Sorgini could have made the entire thing up, --or if may have been the action of a Muslim person not representing the views of the MSA. The MSA is getting a lot of heat from this however it must be known the only time they were approached about this isue the cooperated with the school and met the concerns openly. The issue is being much blown out of proportion and it would be a great injustice to continue speaking about it without knowledge.

Secondly regarding the Halal meat, every religous group has the same opportunity to lobby for their deitary needs. If anyone would like kosher food as well they have every right to ask the school for it, as they should.

People are treating it as if MSA has any control over the space. The space was created for students to use for meditation purposes and Muslims use it more often than any group because they are required to pray 5x a day. Although its members use it, the MSA has NOTHING to do with it.

There are thousands of Muslims at GMU and the MSA cannot be held accountable for the actions and views of individuals. Anyone has the ability and are encouraged to contact the MSA for their position on an issue.

*Just want to note I'm not an MSA officer. Its just common sense.
#32 Natch 18-Sep-2007
Dear RM,

I'm speaking as someone whose Virginia income tax dollars help fund GMU and thus the Johnson Center and thus the maintenance and use of the "quiet meditation space".

For me, the request by Muslim students to have Halal food is not a flashpoint. If, say, Buddhist or Hindu students or Jewish students can respectively ask for vegetarian or kosher food, and the Muslim students also are provided Halal food, and if GMU makes these foods available for them in the same way as for the other religious groups just mentioned, then that becomes equal and fair treatment for everyone, the cultural norm by which Americans culturally tend to judge such things.

Similarly, MSA putting up the divider (which by the photo posted here looks like a small Japanese-style shoji (rice paper) screen divider) to separate the male students from the female students is also not a flashpoint for me. If it is Muslim religious custom for men and women to be separated during prayer, so they can't see each other, then the shoji dividers look portable and foldable, and are thus temporary. They can be moved to the side and folded when the Muslim students are not praying, and moved back in place when they are. This seems like a non-issue. I'm not sure why this would become a flashpoint for other people.

For me, however, as a Virginia taxpayer, the serious hot flashpoint was Sorgini's story about being told not to use his Catholic rosary to pray with, and to take off his shoes, and to leave, by two Muslim students. I'd doubt someone would make this story up but admit it's possible.

Regardless, if it did happen and two Muslim students actually did that to Sorgini, such behavior equals ugly religious bullying and in the United States of America at a State-funded public uniersity facility "quiet meditation room", designed for use by ALL members of the public regardless of religious affiliation, such bullying must NEVER be tolerated. In a public space, one religion should not appropriate by force of numbers or force of frequency of use, that public space for themselves. It's just plain wrong.

It is understood that Muslims need to pray 5 times a day as a religious committment. It is understood that there are many Muslim students who need a regular daily space for prayer to exercise their religious rights. It is understood that the "quiet meditation space" is a convenient place for Muslim students to gather to exercise those rights. This is not the point that is being questioned or opposed by this taxpayer.

What IS being questioned by this taxpayer is wondering whether the MSA or even non-MSA member Muslim students in general are taking full responsibility to avoid religious conflict with non-Muslim fellow students...and to avoid public inquiry and/or anger at a state tax supported public facility being turned into a de facto site for only one religion when it is actually designed for use by any or all religions, or non-religious quiet time. In other words, a public space in the truest sense of the term.

Granted, the writer of the above post (shown as simply "RM") may not be an officer or even a member of MSA, but if the writer (RM) above understands the depth of the issues as I'm describing them from the non-Muslim side, and if the writer RM regularly attends the prayer sessions held by MSA at the "quiet meditation space", then in fairness, RM, you really ought to shoulder the responsibility of making sure that those who ARE officers and members of MSA fully understand that THEY THEMSELVES should shoulder the responsibility to communicate clearly to their congregants at the "quiet meditation space" just after prayer completes, that such behavor as Sorgini describes will surely result in intensified conflict with the non-Muslim populace both attending GMU and not attending but paying taxes to the Commonwealth of Virgnia, and that such behavior should be avoided at all costs. Such behavior utterly flies in the face of cherished American cultural values.

The United States of America was founded as a country where religious freedom is to be valued and supported, and where the State does not mandate a State-instituted religion.

If attendees of the MSA prayer meetings in the "quiet meditation space" of their own independent volition choose to bully members of other religions who wish to use the same space to pray in their own way at times of the day when MSA isn't actively using that space, and if the University administration is afraid to work this out with MSA and is backing down from addressing the issue, and failing to do what is necessary to preserver the non-demoninational character of that public space, then then GMU automatically provides tacit support for a public space becoming a purely Muslim space when this contradicts the university's own policy. By default, this situation becomes state-supported religion. As a taxpayer supporting GMU, to me such crumpling by the University administration is an outrage and I will take this up with officials at the University and the State government. Note carefully, that I do NOT wish for the Muslim students at GMU to stop using that space. I fully support Muslim students' right to pray as their religion dictates.

Rather, I simply wish GMU's Muslim student population would stay fully mindful of the need to share that space freely and fully with others when MSA is not actively using it, and to not bully members of other religions or try to appropriate that space solely for themselves.

In the meantime, MSA can support the reduction of conflict by actively and frequently, on a regular basis, advising its prayer service attendees that the space is designed for EVERYONE at the university and is not just a space for Muslims and the rules of Islam alone.

RM, you say that "There are thousands of Muslims at GMU and the MSA cannot be held accountable for the actions and views of individuals. Anyone has the ability and are encouraged to contact the MSA for their position on an issue."

RM, WHO actually WILL contact the MSA on this issue? If you aren't willing to communicate this to the officers and members of MSA, you effectively pass the buck and encourage future conflict with non-Muslims...something I'm sure that you, the MSA, the University and its students, faculty and administration, and those among us concerned taxpayers in the general population surely wish to avoid.

Thus, I humbly request you, RM, to pass these points on to the officers and members of the MSA, and to other Muslim students at GMU, when you go to pray with them. A little proactive prevention ahead of time will go a long way to assuring the freedom of prayer for all will continue for a long time to come. In the very same way that Muslims in the United States ask Americans to respect their religious and cultural values, we Americans would ask for the very same.

And to me, as I read about this issue, THIS is the crux of the conflict and how further conflict can be avoided.

Anyway, I hope you understand my points.
#33 Sam 18-Sep-2007
I would suggest that anyone interested in this issue do a little Internet scouting about the MSA, its origin and its activities.
#34 RM 19-Sep-2007
Natch, I appreciate your constructive thinking.

I have contacted the MSA regarding this and and I hope they can put this issue at rest. There was already an email sent after this last article (as there was before) to its members denouncing any discrimination in the Meditation Area. Like I said, its being blown out of proportion based on ONE known incident and blame is inappropriately being placed. I acknowledge Sorgini's incident is a possibility but doubt that it was a cabinet member from the MSA considering they have maintained it is not only for Muslims. The school has met with the MSA regarding this, and I was asked to be at the meeting because of my previous involvement with the MSA. This occured when the first article was published at the end of last semester. That was the main point I was trying to make, the MSA cooperated and allowed for the dividers to be removed if that is what was causing the intimidation. It was the schools inaction that let the controversy to continue.

Regarding the food. I know personally there was a heavy amount of convincing including lobbying and research done by a particular Non Muslim student government member with the support of several organizations (mostly cultural) but also the MSA. This was a joint effort but not the first one. There have been several attempts for years and only recently has the school recognized the need. I encourage all groups to do the same so that their dietary needs are met. Just to be clear there was a vegan/veggie freindly venue on campus just a few years ago. Additionally want to make clear that the halal food on campus is just one item in the Bistro, and not a venue. And its also $7+ for very little food.

I ended up skimming thru your post cause of the length haha I hope I addressed all of the key issues.
#35 Natch 19-Sep-2007
Dear RM,

I really appreciate your reply. And I also really appreciate your being proactive and speaking with the MSA after reading...err, skimming, my comment above. I hope you ask them to read it carefully themselves, since I believe it covers the core issues of cultural sensitivity from the non-Muslim, native-born American point of view.

You may be correct, it's entirely possible the whole thing is being blown out of proportion. It may only be that one incident with Sorgini, and if it did in fact happen, quite possibly it was committed by Muslim students simply attending the prayers but aren't necessarily MSA members, but heard something from somebody who heard something from somebody who told them the quiet meditation space was now for Muslim use only. I say "possibly" since I wasn't there and can only take each side's argument at face value. At least, I'd like to hope it was a mistake like that, and that's all it was.

Look, I'm not Muslim myself but I've known and studied with Muslims for a number of years. Can't claim to know about Islam deeply but perhaps know more than the average American. I'm quite aware that some Muslims consider any intermixing of other religious traditions in their prayer space to be "contamination" that shoes are not to be worn in the prayer area, that the prayer area and the praying faithful need to be "clean" (hence performing wudhu) during that period of communing with the almighty. It is all too easy, however, for a zealous Muslim student to want for that prayer area to conform fully with Shari'a...which if Sorgini's recollection of the incident is true may also possibly be what happened.

Well, if that quiet meditation space was in fact officially the MSA's jam', the MSA's own masjid, then it would be within its rights to demand "no mixing". But that's the key issue here - - it's a PUBLIC space designed for ALL parties. This means that to avoid conflict and things getting blown out of proportion - - or getting ugly - - it means the MSA, its officers, even its non-officer member really need to be more pro-active in getting the message out that it is truly a public, shared space.

Look, in the current geopolitical climate, it's easy for things to get blown out of proportion. For me, the issue is fairness and equal treatment and equal availability of that space. If a Muslim student got harrassed by a couple of Catholic or Protestant or Hindu or Jewish or Buddhist students and told to get out, I'd hope there would be fully equal outrage at any of those relgions trying to commandeer or appropriate that space for themselves.

The bottom line is: Everybody Play Fair. THAT's the cultural flashpoint. If MSA isn't totally pro-active in spreading the word very actively about the space being for equal public use by everybody, then it's not doing enough. Unfortunately, due to current society's issues, it means the Muslim student community will have to work all the harder to assuage the sensitivities of the natives.

Think about it. What example did Japanese-Americans set during WWII? Despite the TERRIBLE persecution they faced during and after that war, the young men and women of that ethnic community volunteered in large numbers to join the military to fight the Axis (usually Germany, they were rarely assigned to fight the Japanese) to prove they weren't the ones who attacked Pearl Harbor. While I may be comparing an apple (WWII) with an orange (the situtaion at GMU), this is in fact the BENCHMARK Americans set for ethnic communities they're suspicious of. And although I hate to admit it, a lot of what's probably driving things being blown "out of proportion" is simply fearful suspicion. If MSA is very proactive in addressing that suspicion, I expect the issue will quiet down quickly. Hate to say it, but the MSA bears the burden to make sure flashpoints don't occur. It's not fair. I understand that. Unfortunately, it's simply the current-day reality.

Anyway, I thank you for taking the time to act on my suggestion.
Peace,
Natch
#36 Luqman Mahmood 15-Oct-2007
I'm surprised to find this site mentioning some of the comments I made, and it seems that many people are misunderstanding Islam once again. If a couple of Muslims did kick out a person of another faith, then what does that have to do with Islam? Since when did they come to represent Islam? Do I need to mention witchcraft and how Christians behaved as a representation of Christianity? As far as someone saying that other religions do teach how to pray, then he missed the point. There is no other religion that emphasizes prayer as much as Islam and teaches how to go about it so clearly. From the ablution before prayer up to the prayer itself, Islam has made prayer crystal clear. I think that it might benefit the discussion for me to post the answers to the questions that the reporter asked me on that day so that people will get a better idea of at least my views (the former president of the AMSA) on this issue:
--------------------------------
Hi Rachael,

Thanks for asking for my input regarding these issues. What I'll say is strictly in my own view, so please note as such.

Have you or members of your religious organization used this space before?

I have used the meditation area before, as have the people of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Association.

How often?

Usually, the meditation space is used in between classes at prayer time. It is a very handy space for Muslims as it is mandatory upon every Muslim to pray five times a day.

Do members of your group keep their belongings in this space?

Members of our group keep no belongings in this space.

Is the space big enough for your needs?

Yes, the area is large enough to fit our needs, but as the Muslim population in GMU is so large it would not hurt to increase the area.

Do you think it needs to be expanded?

Not necessarily, but during Ramadan when Muslims are even more attentive to saying their prayers and doing it in congregation, the area becomes a bit small. The solution is to temporarily apportion another part of GMU during prayer time, and so expansion is not really an issue as such.

In the current set-up of the room, there are dividers separating genders. Is this a necessary component to daily prayers?

As long as there is no free-mixing of genders, then perhaps women can stay behind men while praying without a divider--although this is not the most wise way to go about things. A divider is meant to separate men and women from looking at each other and getting distracted, and so a divider becomes an important part of promoting concentration in prayer. If asked why women are not allowed to pray with men or in front of men, then the answer is that concentration in prayer and developing a link to God is compromised in such situations. With women standing next to men or bending and prostrating in front of them, the attentions get focused elsewhere and not on God.

Islam is a practical religion, it does not only tell you what you should not do but explains how you can go about not doing it. Even in the Bible it says that punishment for adultery is death and that even if a person looks at a woman in a lustful way he is an adulterer. In the Holy Qur'an, God commands that both men and women look down when in the company of the other (unless married or related) and that women should cover their beauty so that men will not have impure thoughts about them. The teachings are the same in the Holy Bible and the Holy Qur'an, but how to carry out the teaching is explained in the Holy Qur'an.

If a divider is put up in between men and women, it is not because of any gender inequality issues, but because Muslims thought the best way to keep their thoughts and glances chaste was not to even give rise to the opportunity to see the other gender while praying. So God bless those people who put in those dividers, the dividers have been a boon for the concentration of any person who desires their whole attention be focused on the One God who not only commanded us to do something for our own good, but gave us great examples and role models to follow by way of sending prophets such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

What is the reasoning for it- are there religious commands to the sort?

Explained previously, but the simple reasoning is to keep thoughts and glances chaste as well as focus being paid towards prayers rather than some girl or guy. If we look even deeper into it, then some people may prefer the divider so that women don't see a guy praying and start thinking he is very religious or vice versa and use it as a method for impressing each other. Prayers are meant to be solely for God as a method of establishing a connection with Him. There should be no ulterior motives involved. God is the King of kings, so when going into His court it is necessary all attention be focused upon Him. The main point being is that concentration is vital in prayer.

I have heard that there are footbaths in the Johnson Center bathrooms set up for a ceremonial washing of the feet before prayer. Is this true?

Muslims perform ablution and at the end of ablution it is necessary to wash feet three times up to the ankles, so it is necessary to wash the feet--at least in the morning. If the feet are washed in the morning then socks are worn after taking a shower or ablution, then it is not necessary to go about washing your feet when performing ablution the rest of the day. As long as a person is wearing shoes with socks, then wetting your hands with a little bit of water and going over your socks is all that is necessary to perform this last act of ablution. Of course, some Muslims might prefer to wash their feet each time they peform ablution, but that is completely up to them. Islam is a practical religion as I have said before, and so God has already made provisions for doing ablution in every kind of situation. Wetting the hands and just going over the socks once as the last act of ablution is like God giving me a glass of lemonade on a hot summe r day, He is just trying to make things easier for me.

In some cases though, even non-Muslims may feel their feet are smelly and the need to wash their feet rises up in their minds. There is no problem with this, as cleanliness is a part of faith. So all the blame should not go on Muslims for going out of their way to wash their feet. We thank those people who clean their feet from the bottoms of our noses.

Do the members of your group use it?

I am not sure if any members of my group use it, but I do not.

What need do these address?

The need to keep your feet clean?

What do you think about the articles written on this issue in the past in Broadside, USA Today, and others?

I guess I must be out of the loop, I don't remember reading any articles concerning this. If there has been an issue over meditation areas then it is pretty senseless. A meditation area fulfills a need. Muslims, no doubt, use these areas almost exclusively but Islam is the only religion that describes how to pray, when to pray, and how many times to pray. Other religions do not have such a clear teaching about prayer, which is why Muslims use these areas so much in proportion to people of other faiths. Anyhow, God bless anyone who goes to a meditation or whatever area the with sole purpose in mind to pray to God or meditate in their own way.

Do you think the furor over the issue is valid?

The furor over this issue is not really valid. If there is a meditation area that is great, if not that is fine. No one can stop Muslims from praying. If Mason or another place does not provide a place to pray/meditate, then Muslims will start praying in between tables and chairs and it would probably make the people who are in a furor even more furious. It hurts me that people are so misunderstood about Islam, because the prayers some Muslims do might even be for the other students at GMU. When some Muslims pray for success on their tests they might also include other students and their success as well. After all, being religious means that we should like for others what we like for ourselves.

Why do you think so many people at Mason are angry about this?

I'm not really sure what the anger is about. If people are getting mad that Muslims are praying and utilizing a space given by the school for prayer, then it seems to be a very unusual thing to get angry over. In reality, I think that there is a prejudice against Islam by the people who get angry at these petty things. I hope that these people will take the time out to learn more about Islam and come into contact with Muslims. Our organization openly discusses the similiarities between different faiths and welcomes any questions regarding Islam. If there are specific issues that need to be addressed then a question and answer session can be conducted where people may freely ask any question that is on their mind concerning Islam. Perhaps knowledge will open the doors to better understanding between those who oppose Islam and Muslims themselves. As far as I'm concerned, I love to answer questions about Islam by people who are intereste d. People who won't give Muslims a chance, keep an open mind and ask any question you like, I will try to answer it as best I can.

What do you think of the existence of the Meditation Space- in your opinion, does it abide by the law or violate it?

I don't really see how having an area to pray or meditate would violate the law. Perhaps I don't understand the basis behind the question.

If the Meditation Space did not exist, where would people in your organization go to pray?

Anywhere. Praying is mandatory upon every Muslim five times a day. Any open space would do. God is everywhere so we can worship Him anywhere, although we would try to take care that peoples movements would not be disturbed while we were praying. Loving our neighbors is a wonderful commandment, so we would not want to prevent our neighbors from getting to class!

Would you be in support of a new Spirituality Center being built elsewhere in the Johnson Center with separate rooms in it that can be reserved by groups for activities such as prayer, yoga, praise or meditation?

Yes, any center built for the promotion of spirituality is fine by me.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to address these issues, but please remember these were all my own opinions.

-Luqman Mahmood
Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Association
#37 Thomas Kurian 23-Mar-2009
Well my first question is what do muslims pray 5 times a day? "MohaMad is a prophet" hahaha What did MohMad predict? nothing ! hahaha

MohaMad (NOT Mohammed based on this guy's action) raped 6 year olD Aiysha, had 60+ women for sex, sex skaves, beheaded jews etctec.

he was just a war mongering sex maniac and these msulims say his name in a so called prayer? hahaha

Joke of the century ! When was the last time a prophet asked people to say 5 times "I am a prophet of God"

Cann't you see muslims MohaMad was a sic, mental patient.
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