Seeking Timeout for Prayer

January 19, 2007

Author: Manya A. Brachear

Source: Chicago Tribune,1,2459251.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

As the Ohio State Buckeyes pummeled the Northwestern Wildcats on Ryan Field last November, senior Amir Siddiqui and his friends slipped below the bleachers, removed their shoes and knelt on pieces of poster board to pray.

As the sea of purple cheered and jeered above, Siddiqui tuned out the world around him to perform salaat, the Islamic ritual prayer that faithful Muslims recite five times daily.

Siddiqui will do the same in Welsh-Ryan Arena next week when the Buckeyes basketball team goes up against the Wildcats. But rather than pray amid raucous crowds, some Muslim students are pressing Northwestern's athletic department to set aside a secluded space for the ritual, or grant them permission to come and go from the arena before the buzzer.

"If we attend the game in its entirety, we would miss one of our five daily prayers," said Siddiqui, president of the Muslim cultural Student Association. "I can leave the game early, come later, or pray somewhere in the stadium on dirty floors with lots of noise and lots of people around, which isn't a huge problem. But we'd love to have a small area."

In a statement, associate athletic director John Mack said the athletic department was not yet ready to make such an exception for Muslim fans. He has agreed to meet with Muslim student leaders next week.