CAIRO – Aiming to attain their religious practices within their campus, Fairfield University Muslim students are demanding more space and full-time chaplain to build a wider community.
Having a visiting chaplain can bring “new ideas and new energy, but it’s difficult to begin fresh every single year," said Sohail Sumra, a junior student at Fairfield University, Fairfield Mirror reported on Wednesday, November 14.
"And it would be beneficial to have an established full-time chaplain,” which would allow the chaplain to build more community on campus.
Four years ago, Muslim students Association have started the weekly Friday prayer service at the interfaith room in 42 Bellarmine Road.
From eight to fifteen Muslims students attend the Friday prayer in the university's prayer service and about thirty people attend in all.
With as increasing demand for the prayer service, the dream of a full-time chaplain was getting closer.
“When there’s a greater demand, we might have something greater with the service,” Dr. Martin Nguyen, assistant professor of religious studies.
During last Friday’s prayer, Jawad Bayat, a one-year visiting Muslim Chaplain, urged students to keep their ethical spirit and to be proactive in their campus.
“I want to remind them that God doesn’t give us a burden we can’t handle, and we need to make the most out of our experiences,” Bayat said.
“I’m happy to be here and I’m here to serve.”
Speaking about Ashura and the death of imam Al-Hussein (may Allah be pleased with him) Bayat said, "The best fighting, struggle, in the path of God is to speak justice to an oppressive ruler."
US Muslims are estimated between six to eight million.
A growing number of American universities are hiring full-time Muslim chaplains to help meet their students’ religious needs.
Bard College in New York's Hudson Valley was the first US university to appoint a Muslim chaplain in the mid-1990s.
Among universities that appointed Muslim chaplains were also Yale, Princeton and Duke.
The latest university to join the list is Cornell University, which is planning to recruit a Muslim chaplain soon.
Attending a Muslim prayer service for the first time, the university students praised it as 'different' and non-traditional.
“Having attended Catholic masses my entire life, I found it refreshing to attend this prayer service and witness something new,” said Amanda Lajoie ’14.
“I have always been fascinated by Muslim prayer… [and] the prayer service opened my eyes to the beauty of it.”
The prayer service also offered students’ insights to Islam, highlighting the similarities it shares with Christianity.
“It was interesting to see how the sermon seemed to be very similar to sermons in Christian church services,” said Lauren Kavanagh, a senior at Fairfield University.
“[But] I also thought it was interesting how in different parts of the service, participants would pray together, then on their own.”
Raised in a Muslim family Sumra used to face many questions about his faith.
“Having it be such a part of my life was difficult in that there was more pressure on me to know what I was talking about, to know what I was doing as a hafiz’s son,” said Sumara, the son of a hafiz, someone who has memorized the Quran.
At high school, he used to hide and pray at his first days until he got access to place where he could pray freely.
“After the first couple of weeks people got used to it, my freshman year of high school, my teacher offered me his room to pray, and at Fairfield I have gotten the same response. You go to Campus Ministry and there are prayer rugs there,” he said.
“Luckily I’ve never had any real aversion.
“The majority of what I get is a lot of confusion and a lot of questions” about my religion,” Sumra added.
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