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NewsThe News articles are written and reviewed by SNU student editors and faculty members.

Muslim Students Find a Sacred Place in the SNU Student Dormitory

  • February 9, 2012
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Muslim students are praying at the newly made prayer room As the silent darkness of a winter night approached Gwanak Mountain, seven students gathered in front of the SNU Student Dormitory, Gwanaksa (Building No.920). They were all foreign Muslim students studying at SNU.

These students assembled in the room on the basement floor and exchanged greetings with each other. Then they spread rugs out on the floor. One student started the prayer by chanting"Allāhu Akbar (الله أكبر)", an Arabic expression meaning"God is the greatest". The students reverently took off their shoes and stood on the rugs. Throughout the prayer they bowed their heads, prostrated themselves and closed their eyes.

Since October, Muslim students have gathered at Building No.920 every night at 9:30 to pray. At first this wasn't possible because of the nighttime entry regulations. Gwanaksa has entry regulations that limit students' access to its facilities due to safety reasons. Also, the entry regulations intend to give students equal opportunities to use the facilities. In order to abide by the entry regulations, Muslim students changed their prayer time to 30 minutes earlier and the SNU Student Dormitory permitted them to use this space. Now these Muslim students have a clean, quiet place where they can pray together.

This is the first time SNU has ever designated a prayer room for its students of the Islamic faith. Any undergraduate or graduate student enrolled at SNU can use this room, even if they aren't living in the dormitory. About 1200 foreign students from 88 countries are currently residing in the dormitory. Among these students, the number of Muslim students is assumed to be over 100.

LEE Sun, a superintendent in the dormitory administration office said,"In September, several Muslim students visited our office and asked for permission to use the dormitory's rooms. It wasn't an easy decision to make because of safety reasons but in order to promote cultural diversity and religious equality, the SNU Student Dormitory administration decided to grant their request."

Professor KIM Seong Hee, the SNU Student Dormitory housemaster, commented that"As the number of foreign students living in the dormitory increased, more conflicts between students surfaced because of cultural differences." KIM also said"Muslim students were alienated from the rest of the student community because many students were prejudiced against Islam."

"However, providing Muslim students with the prayer room brought about a change. Muslim students who were once scattered across the campus congregated to perform their religious obligations and formed a community. The Muslim students actively participated in the 2nd Gwanaksa Global Culture Week. This was a festival that took place at Gwanaksa from November 7 to 11. At this festival, Muslim students were able to introduce their culture to others. For example, they showed other students how to write their name in Arabic. They also prepared and shared traditional food of Islamic countries.

KIM Ji Su, a student who had an encounter with Muslim culture at the 2nd Gwanaksa Global Culture Week, commented that"It's unfortunate that many students have a negative preconception of Islam because of the terrorism associated with Islamic fundamentalism. These kinds of events will narrow the emotional gap between students from different cultures and eliminate prejudice."

Rahidol, a foreign Muslim student, said,"Praying is very important to Muslims, and not being able to pray because of exams and classes was very frustrating." He also thanked SNU and commented,"The prayer room doesn't just hold a religious meaning. It's a special space that enabled us to form a community."

Written by JANG Hyo Jeong, SNU English Editor, fatalbonds@snu.ac.kr  ?
Reviewed by Eli Park Sorensen, SNU Professor of Liberal Studies, eps7257@snu.ac.kr
Proofread by Brett Johnson, SNU English Editor, morningcalm2@gmail.com
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