Temple Muslim Students Association gets space in Paley

The student organization can use the space until the Paley Building’s construction starts later this semester.

Members of the Muslim Student Association gather for chai after praying Maghrib in the Village, located in the Student Center, on Feb. 7. | AMBER RITSON / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After reigniting their years-long campaign for a new and permanent prayer space in the Paley Building in November 2021, Temple University’s Muslim Students Association can start using a room in Paley as a temporary prayer space within the next two weeks.

The organization can use Paley for prayer until construction begins on the building later this semester, said Chris Carey, senior associate dean of students.

MSA will continue campaigning for a permanent space, but is grateful for this new development, said MSA Islamic Education Chair Syed Waseem, a senior neuroscience and mathematics and computer science major.

“Even if the permanent prayer space isn’t achieved in one to two more years, what we did achieve was showing all people have a voice, that their voice can be heard and found,” Waseem said. 

MSA’s campaign for a convenient and clean prayer space has been gaining momentum, largely on social media, with the introduction of their new Coalition Against Religious Exclusivity in a January Instagram post. The coalition invited organizations to sign a letter addressed to Temple’s administration detailing their concerns. MSA also developed the hashtag “#tufighttopray” for their campaign.

Almost 20 Temple student organizations, local mosques and other university’s Muslim Student Associations, including Harvard University, Princeton University and Brown University, have signed MSA’s letter, wrote MSA events coordinator Kubarah Ghias, a junior neuroscience and psychology major in an email to The Temple News.

Temple Student Government and Temple’s Pakistani Students Association have shown support for the campaign on social media.

TSG President Bradley Smutek has met with MSA periodically since last December to offer support for the organization’s initiatives by connecting them with members of university administration. TSG also contributed to the social media campaign by encouraging MSA to post videos and photos of them praying on social media, Smutek said. 

“It’s bringing to light the sort of conditions on which they pray and students have no idea that that’s even happening,” said Smutek, a senior history major. 

PSA is showing their support by reposting MSA’s Instagram campaign videos, said PSA President Zainab Khan, a junior architecture major. MSA’s videos often feature members praying under stairwells.

PSA, which shares a lot of members with MSA, has been commenting on MSA’s Instagram posts, using #tufighttopray and plans to sign MSA’s letter by Feb. 9 at the latest, Khan said.

“The support isn’t going to come to a stop, so I don’t think this would be the only thing we’re going to do,” Khan said. “A good discussion definitely needs to continue, too, if that’s what it takes to bring more light into the situation.” 

Richie’s, which is a Muslim-run business, has also shown their support for the campaign by reposting the letter to their Instagram, tagging Temple, TSG and President Jason Wingard’s Instagram, as recently as Jan. 28, said Tarik Dzemaili, operations manager at Richie’s.

“We have a lot of Muslim students as regulars here, and as I mentioned on our Instagram posts, not many people know that we’re Muslims, Richie and his family,” Dzemaili said.

A combination of social media and in-person organizing can enact social change, said Jason Del Gandio, a communication and social influence professor and the faculty advisor for the communication and activism minor. 

“One of the ways to maximize your effectiveness on social media is to create a broad-based coalition of different groups, different business interests, entrepreneurs, and different influencers,” Del Gandio said. 

Social media is a useful tool to educate and mobilize users and hold those in power accountable, he added. 

Prior to MSA’s social media campaign, the dean of students office and other departments within the university have met with MSA about their campaign, Carey said.

Currently, MSA previously holds prayer sessions in the Howard Gittis Student Center and the Tuttleman Learning Center.

The organization met with Student Activities before winter break to discuss concerns including fixing their broken wudu station, used to perform a pre-prayer ritual. MSA also suggested adding hooks in the bathrooms for women to hang their hijabs on while they perform wudu, and re-stocking the paper towels, Ghias said. 

“MSA has our support because we want students, staff and faculty within the Muslim community on campus to feel like they belong and are supported,” Carey said.

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