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New Centennial Student Union facility helps meet needs of Muslim students
Centennial Student Union helping to make Muslim students more comfortable.
By Ali Ramsey, Free Press Correspondent [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 11/24/2008]
Photo by Pat Christman
Hassan Mohamed (foreground) and Kamran Changezi wash their hands and feet before prayers in a new foot-washing station in Minnesota State University's Centennial Student Union.
In hopes of meeting the needs of Muslim students, a foot-washing station was recently installed in Minnesota State University's Centennial Student Union.
"What we try to do around this building is provide things that make all kinds of groups of students feel comfortable," said student union director Laurie Woodward.
The idea was brought to the Student Union Board several years ago, but it wasn't until the renovation of several bathrooms on the second floor that the space became available.
The station was paid for entirely through student fees. Woodward said anyone is welcome to use the room even though it was put in to serve the religious needs of Muslim students.
Foot washing is a rite observed by several religious groups. Muslims are required to perform foot washing in preparation for ritual prayer and before handling and reading the Quran. Many Muslims pray five times a day, and each time they wash their feet, hands, head and face. This process is called "wadhu."
Former MSU student Irfan Bangash was among those who pushed for years to get a foot-washing station installed. He said the idea was met with many questions but little opposition.
"Every Friday at about noon there'd be a hundred Muslim students gathering in one rest room trying to wash their feet in a very, very unpleasant way," Bangash said.
Minnesota State Student Association President Ryan Anderson said he thinks building the foot-washing station is a positive step for the CSU.
"I think it's important to remember that the student union is the only building on campus that is entirely funded by student fees," Anderson said. "It's symbolically important that we try to make accommodations for everybody to be able to use it."
Before the station was built, students were performing the foot washing in regular sinks. Both Anderson and Woodward agreed this was an unsafe method and one of the reasons the demand was so high.
"It makes a lot of sense for both a way to accommodate students of all different faiths and traditions in the union and also from a practical standpoint," Anderson said.
Both the Student Senate and the Student Union Board hear suggestions for different things students would like to see in the CSU. For example, a mothers' nursing room was put in when the bathrooms were remodeled.
Other facilities being put into the CSU include a gender-neutral bathroom and a videophone to make communication easier for deaf students.
"What we try to do is (put in) stuff that students want and need," Woodward said. "This is the place where (students) should be comfortable when they're on campus."
MSU isn't the first university in the state to install a foot-washing station. St. Cloud State University has one. MSU could have had one earlier, as it was included in the preliminary phases of the CSU renovations of 2006. But it was eliminated from the plans prior to construction.
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