The University of Iowa has renovated two offices in the Iowa Memorial Union so Muslim students, professors and staffers can use the rooms as full-time, sex-segregated prayer chambers.
School officials agreed to the dedicated religious use of the taxpayer-funded space last year at the behest of the Muslim Student Association, reports the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
One of the rooms is for Muslim men to pray. The other is for Muslim women to pray. Muslims on the University of Iowa campus will now be able to segregate completely by gender and pray to Allah right in the student union — 24 hours a day.
“The necessity had been well established for a while,” student life staffer Tom Rocklin told the Press-Citizen. “It was more a question of when the opportunity to do something came up.”
The Muslim Student Association faculty adviser, social work professor Motier Haskins, called the public school’s sex-segregated prayer rooms a “step in the right direction.”
Muslim Student Association event coordinator Mohammed Ismail agreed.
“We’re very happy what they gave us,” Ismail told the Iowa City newspaper. “It’s a big place for the moment, but we may see a need for a bigger room in the future.”
Prior to the dedication of the two rooms for round-the-clock Muslim prayer, school officials had made Danforth Chapel — “a charming 1950s non-denominational chapel, adjacent to the Iowa Memorial Union and the beautiful Iowa River” — available for Muslim prayer.
Muslim students didn’t like the setup of Danforth Chapel, though. Its benches are far from ideal. The altar and the Christian imagery are off-putting.
Observant Muslims are obligated to pray to Allah five times each day: at dawn, at noon, in the afternoon, at sunset and in the evening.
“These rooms are certainly going to be used primarily by Muslim students, but they’re not limited to be used by Muslim students,” Rocklin assured the Press-Citizen.
Prayer rooms for Muslim students, like at the University of Iowa, are part of a larger trend on U.S. college and university campuses. (RELATED: Muslim Prayer Rooms Are The Big New Thing At Christian Colleges Now)
The University of Iowa, a notable party school, is famous because it has long had a pink visitors’ locker room in the football stadium. (RELATED: Professor To Wear Robot Suit In Futile Protest Against University Of Iowa’s Pink Visitors’ Locker Room)
The Big 10 bastion also employs a leisure studies professor, Benjamin Kline Hunnicut, who has excoriated Republicans for criticizing unemployment as some sort of problem mitigated. (RELATED: Leisure Studies Prof Rebukes Republicans For Liking Jobs, Lauds Obama For Unemployment)