Last year, a resolution was introduced by former Student Government Vice President Idman Ibrahim to move the campus’ Reflection Space to an enclosed area. Now, the Reflection Space is located in CSU room 256.
“Since 2018, it has always been a conversation that the Reflection Space needs a new location, but there was an obstacle each year, so it never happened,” said Ibrahim. “It was in the middle of the hallway and did not feel like a quiet space for reflection. When people walk outside, you can hear them talking or playing music at CSU.”
New students who are religiously obligated to pray struggled to understand that the previous location for Reflection Space was introduced for them to reflect and pray.
“I didn’t know this was a prayer room. But (the Somali Student Association) all met here and then realized this was a prayer room,” said senior Tufah Dahir. “We saw that as a problem because of the location of the space. It was loud and there was no separation from the hallway for girls to feel comfortable while praying.”
“Girls did not think this place was safe because of how they prayed and felt that people watched them,” said Ibrahim. “I would either go to my professors’ office when they are not there or to the Women’s Center because I would have never focused in that Reflection Space location.”
“I didn’t know girls could also pray here until the last month of the previous school year when I realized we could also be here, but it was very, very exposed,” said senior Iqra Mahamud. “Typically, women pray behind men, and it feels very private, while here you are bending down and doing all these sorts of action, and there’s someone who can see you from behind, so it just didn’t make you want to pray here.”
Liz Steinborn-Gourley, director of MSU’s Women’s Center, said the center supports students in their needs. Regarding a quiet space for praying, she said the center was open to inviting students into the office. Now that the area has moved into CSU room 256, the Women’s Center will continue to offer additional space for reflection.
“We did invite students in, and certainly that continues if it gets crowded in the reflection room,” said Steinborn-Gourley. “There are tour groups, and we know how rowdy the hallway gets even within our protective bubble of the Women’s Center, much less when you’re out there with just a screen. And we certainly can understand why it was a priority for Muslim students and for students looking for a quieter reflection area.”
Last year, MNSU students received an email from President Inch about the Vandalism incident that happened in the former Reflection Space location. The Muslim Student Association posted a message on its social media describing an incident.
The Muslim Student Association issued a statement that read, in part, “One of our Muslim students found a prayer mat and women’s prayer covers in a wastebasket with a fluid substance poured over them. This behavior goes against the teachings of Islam and our values of inclusivity, respect, and brotherhood that we uphold at our university.”
“Whether it was the act of vandalism or not, what is important is how it made the students feel, and I’d certainly say it made Muslim students and us feel unsafe,” said Dahir. “And with that, we really put into perspective that the location that we needed was an urgent matter.”
“Yes, students reacted, and so did the school because the change of the location has to be done. And it has to be quick; there needs to be an action. And I think that’s how Reflection Room came to this point,” said the President of MSA, Hamede Abdulgafur.
MSA members said that the process took a long time. The collaboration of students from different associations helped them work toward solving the problem they saw.
“We did a Google Doc survey to get students’ signatures. I went to the school, and we got almost 200 signatures on the file,” said senior Deqo Ali. “So with all those signatures, this motivated us even more to find a better space.”
Students are grateful for moving the Reflection Space into an enclosed area. MSA members who already used the new room said that it feels better.
“The ideal room would be right next to a washroom because it’s just more accessible,” said Mahamud. “We just want the space to be a room with a door that can close, a divider and then a big enough space where people can pray. This room has it all.”
“Yes, the space is very different from what it was before,” said Abdulgafur. “Now it’s in a closed space, and for us, it is a matter of safety, and it’s much more secure than before we were in the open area. Now it’s more quieter.”
Header photo: The Reflection Space, which used to be in the hallway across from CSU 256, has now moved to the old conference room after students advocated to have a safe space to pray in. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)
Write to Amalia Sharaf at firstname.lastname@example.org