Muslims in the Midwest

Post on Wednesday, June 4, 2008

When Chozin Muhammad gets a break during class, he doesn’t always use it to talk to friends or go to the restroom – he finds a quiet space and prays.

Chozin, an international studies graduate student at Ohio University, is Muslim and follows the practice of praying five times a day, or salat. Although the times are not strict, the prayers generally take place during the same time periods every day. The prayers can be done individually or in a group and involve movement and the silent recitation of a mantra. On campus, Chozin and other Muslim students pray in empty classrooms, private areas of the library and stairwells.

Chozin, a member of the OU Muslim Student Association, also lives in the Islamic Center, where the association is based. When he is home, he and other Muslims conduct the daily prayers together. They also participate in another obligation – on Friday afternoons, Muslim men meet for prayer, called a Jumu’ah, and a sermon, which can be performed by anyone. Although women can attend, they are not required to.

The association is made up of mostly graduate and international students because most Muslims come to OU on scholarships and the ones that are available are for international graduate students, said Heather Irwin, a member of the association.

The group has two purposes, she said. The first is to conduct the day-to-day affairs of the Islamic Center and the other is to conduct activities and build awareness about Islam on campus. Some of those activities include an open house at the center, aRamadan fast and dinner and guest lectures about Islam.

“It’s been a very good thing for both sides,” she said. “It puts a face on what (people are) learning in the media.”

Being Muslim at OU

Chozin is from Indonesia, which has six national religions, so he had plenty of non-Muslim friends even before coming to America. But he said being on campus has changed him – he now attends church services as well as the mosque. While he used to get spiritual fulfillment only through Islam, he now gets it from a variety of sources.

“I cannot just stay in one religion,” he said. “I am always questioning my faith.”

Although Chozin said that Islam is very encouraging of tolerance and understanding of other faiths, he has taken it a bit beyond the accepted line by actually attending other services.

Irwin said that she has seen a lot of misinformation and outright predjudice about being Muslim; some female Muslim students she knows are afraid to be on campus after dark. She recalled a time when she was walking home down Palmer Street wearing ahijab and one guy stated “Wow, I wouldn’t wanna mess with that.” She said the experience made her discouraged as well as angry.

“Being objectified makes me angry,” she said, adding that objectification can come from anywhere from drunk undergraduate students to other Muslims who expect her to speak for all female Muslims.

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