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:
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.