Muslim students are continuing to pray at an outdoor loading area due to the lack of private prayer spaces on campus.
The Muslim Student Association currently holds its general Muslim prayers at the loading area behind Kerckhoff Hall, a public space that is often disrupted by foot traffic and heavy construction activities related to the renovations in Ackerman Union.
Undergraduate Students Association Council Facilities Commissioner Zahra Hajee, who has been working to provide more prayer spaces on campus, said the docking area is not a suitable area for MSA’s prayer sessions because it is often filled with cars and multiple dumpsters.
MSA has been using this area for years because of the lack of alternative locations available on campus and the area’s proximity to its office in Kerckhoff 146, where MSA stores prayer items such as prayer mats and headscarves.
In spring 2016, Associated Students UCLA installed walls around a lounge located on the third floor of Ackerman Union to create a prayer space in response to requests from students who were advocating for prayer and worship spaces.
Roy Champawat, the ASUCLA director, said creating the prayer space, which costed approximately $8,000, was a good way to use the underutilized space.
“The third-floor lounge was somewhat underutilized and we had the idea to put up some walls and the space could be used for prayer or meditation or contemplation,” Champawat said.
Sohaib Kazmi, president of the MSA, said the space does not fulfill the needs of the greater Muslim community.
“It was created with good intentions,” said Kazmi, a fourth-year biology student. “Unfortunately, it isn’t large enough to accommodate the Muslim community’s growing needs, nor the needs of other religious and spiritual communities on campus.”
Champawat agreed that the space is modest in size and inadequate for large groups, but he said the space has been used frequently by many students and that these students were satisfied with the space at the time the space was created.
Hajee, a third-year psychobiology student, said that the project was a step in the right direction but added that UCLA needs to improve resources for religious students.
“It was a great start, but at the same time that space fits around five to seven people comfortably, but MSA can have up to 50 people at a time,” Hajee said. “There is a scarcity of space on campus. … The administration should be doing a much better job of (ensuring) that students do have those spaces to engage with their faith.”
Champawat said it is difficult for ASUCLA to meet all the demands for public spaces on campus because of limited physical space. He added it is difficult to designate a permanent prayer space without limiting space for other student activities because of the high demand for public spaces on campus from various student organizations.
Kazmi said he understands the restraints of space on campus but thinks the administration should not neglect the needs of students. Kazmi added MSA and campus administration are currently working together to allocate a larger prayer space that students of any faith can use for quiet prayer and reflection.