Cal State Fullerton students struggle to pray on campus due to lack of dedicated prayer room

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A woman prayers in between rows of books in a library

Looking for a place to pray on campus at Cal State Fullerton is a daily struggle for Maisune Elhaija, a Muslim graduate student.

“It was really difficult. I’ve literally prayed in my car a lot,” Elhaija said. “I’ve had friends tell me they’ve done the same thing before.”

Common tradition in Islam is to pray five to six times a day. Prayer can be done from anywhere, but requires little distraction and can be more easily practiced in a quiet place.

While there is a meditation room located on the upper level of the Titan Student Union, Elhaija said that given the size of its space and location, the room isn’t as accessible for all students.

“If I’m doing my classes at College Park, I am not going to walk that far so I can pray for five minutes and then come back,” Elhaija said.

Anthony Davis, interim associate dean of the library, said he was in Pollak Library one day when he noticed students wandering near the Graduate Student Success Center. Davis said that when he asked if he could help the students, they told him “We’re just looking for a place to pray.”

Prior to his March firing, Clem Guthro, former Cal State Fullerton library dean, had stated the need for a designated safe space for students of all religions and faiths in a revised Libraries of the Future Plan, which is currently underway to bring the library into modernity.

Davis said plans for a multifaith prayer meditation space are still in place, though it is unknown where it would be.

Elhaija said she sees the lack of prayer space available for religious students like her is a “lack of support” from the university.

While Davis said CSUF has a “pretty complex social sphere,” it seems the Muslim student population on campus is a driving force behind the push for a prayer room.

Although the plans are still tentative, Davis said the space would be a quiet one for people to reflect and take a moment for themselves.

Davis said the library is taking a look into some of its possible rooms, where there wouldn’t be too much noise and it would be easily accessible to students.

The library itself is also trying to be a welcoming and inclusive space in general, given the fact the five Diversity Initiatives and Resource Centers were relocated to the south side of the Pollak Library.

Davis said while the library is meant to be a place for students to be open to finding new ideas, students should still be able to be comfortable “maintaining their own (ideas).”

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