The Challenges Muslim Students Face at COD

Does COD meet the needs and provide enough facilities for the growing population of Muslim students?

Saidmuhammad Asoev, Staff Writer

Diversity is a big part of College of DuPage. The school takes pride in having students from different backgrounds, nations, races, religions and genders. But at least one student group is concerned the latest remodeling plans fail to resolve an important long-standing, but unmet, need of theirs. 

The Institutional Philosophy of COD states, “COD Values Diversity. We seek to reflect and meet the educational needs of the residents of our large, multicultural district. We recognize the importance of embracing individual differences and cultures and value the contributions made to the College by people of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds. We affirm our role as a catalyst for promoting dialogue and tolerance on issues supporting the common good. ”

After a meeting about the redesign of the SSC hosted by the architects of the renovation project, more than 30 Muslim students came together to discuss issues and talk about problems they face at COD. The biggest issues that they face at COD, for too long, was requesting a safe and ample area for performing prayer and ablution or foot washing station, but administrators have not addressed a fundamental need the students have to practice their faith. 

An ablution area is a small area with a sink that is placed in restrooms, and it makes washing feet a lot easier. According to the students, they have a hard time performing ablution in restrooms because after they are done, the floor gets wet. This act of purifying oneself before prayer is an essential part of a Muslim’s daily life. 

The existing meditation room, on the third floor, is too small and does not accommodate many students. Sometimes it takes students more than 20 minutes to wait for their turn to pray. Thus, students miss classes and spend a lot of time waiting. The Muslim students said the meditation room is too small for COD’s Muslim student population. Expanding it or moving it to a bigger place will solve the issue, they said.

The number of Muslim students is growing every year at COD, and they come from all over the world. From what the students said, other colleges and universities have such ablution places for students but COD doesn’t. A visit to Kirkwood Community College in Iowa City a few months ago showed even though the college does not have a lot of Muslims, it has a special ablution place for students. 

Hajira Moiz, who has been part of Muslim Students Associates and now is the president, said, “Looking at the number of students that use the the meditation room on a daily basis and the number of students that expressed the need for these spaces during the SSC remodeling discussion, is enough evidence for the need of these spaces.”

Muslim students argue that the ablution and prayer space would not only be helpful for Muslims but it will also be useful for people with special needs who have a hard time using restroom washing places. When asked why they need such space, students said it would help them to save a lot of time to perform ablution, keep the restrooms clean after they finish, and it would be more convenient for them.  

Moiz said students who stay for evening classes will greatly benefit from this. Additionally, students who are at COD even for a short period of time can benefit from this as they get to practice their religion freely. Specifically with the ablution station, she thinks it will be a lot easier for students with physical disabilities to use this service.

The Muslim Students Association has taken several steps to address the issue and has begun a petition that allows students to advocate for their needs. As representatives of Muslim students, MSA board officers and club members are trying to get their voices heard by COD officials and to get their needs met.  

Sameena Parvin has been serving as the adviser to MSA for  seven years. When asked how having a bigger meditation room could help students, she said, “The Muslim student population is growing, and the current meditation room is not sufficient. Students have had to wait outside the room until others have finished. This is causing frustration as there is not much time between classes. Remember, Muslim prayers are done at set times during the day.”

She noted that ablution is a ritual act of washing oneself in preparation for the five obligatory prayers. This entails washing of the hands, mouth, nose, face, arms and feet. Essentially, all parts of the body that tend to track dirt. Students feel stigmatized when using the current bathrooms and sinks.

The Muslim Students Association believes Muslim students and staff desperately need leaders who are willing to listen, learn and provide them with essential needs. They expressed frustration that the issue of providing Muslims with an adequate prayer space is still ignored or put aside semester after semester.

The Courier sent multiple interview requests to David Swope, head of Student Diversity and Inclusion. He did not respond.