Students fight for Bonnie Cone’s dream of an area dedicated to interfaith meditation
For the past year, President of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) Abrar Al-Shaer has stayed up, waiting until midnight so she could reserve library study rooms- study rooms where Muslim students would go to pray throughout the day.
Muslims pray five times in any given day. Without a dedicated space on campus, these students have to resort to finding other locations to pray at such as parking decks, bathrooms and hallways.
With a new system in place at the library that requires reserved rooms to be checked into, MSA officers now have to take shifts re-checking in the room throughout the day.
The rooms aren’t the most secure, with some people going as far as to write “Osama Bin Laden” and “Terrorist” on the sign-in sheets and vandalizing prayer rugs.
On average, 200 students visit the room each week and the room is in use every 15 minutes. After collecting this data for a year, the students are ready to take their proposal for an official prayer-meditation room to the University.
Interfaith Niners, a new organization on campus, is asking for a 10×15 room, that could fit 10 to 15 students. The room would allow a space for people of any faith to come in for prayer or mediation, during any of the building’s operational hours.
At a sit-in, pray-in event held Wednesday in front of Cato Hall, students and observers heard from guest speakers such as Student Body President Fahn Darkor, prayed, meditated and protested with signs. Members of Interfaith Niners educated passers-by of what was being protested and encouraged them to sign a petition.
“We are going to keep advocating for this cause until this space is established on campus. We are going to create this inclusive community that we all need,” Al-Shaer said.
Meditation-prayer rooms are not uncommon for universities. Schools like North Carolina State University, UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Asheville, Appalachian State University, Elon University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and UNC Greensboro are all schools that have these spaces.
Interfaith Niners have given the University a six page executive proposal addressing concerns and needs of the students with a preferred deadline of 15 days.
Founder of UNC Charlotte Bonnie E. Cone documented that an interfaith meditation building was something she had envisioned for UNC Charlotte. In 2014, an organization called “Bonnie Cone’s Dream” advocated for the same request, but never found success.
According to Al-Shaer, the University has argued in the past that there’s not enough space for the room.
Over 20 organizations at UNC Charlotte are backing the initiation. Dean of Students Office, Department of Religious Studies and the Multicultural Resource Center are also collaborating with the program.