American River College now provides a dedicated quiet space for meditation, prayer and reflection for all current students, faculty and staff.
During the spring 2017 semester the ARC Muslim Student Association requested a space where students could observe prayer while taking classes after a Muslim student was questioned by the police for practicing prayer along Oak Park Drive the previous semester, according to MSA president Muhammad Shahbaz.
The student was using a public space and everything he was doing was legal, according to Shahbaz.
“I think someone saw something they didn’t understand; it’s probably just ignorance,” Shahbaz said.
This lack of understanding about Islamic religious practices made it clear a better solution was needed to accommodate students who observe afternoon prayer.
“This person came and said ‘look I can’t be in fear of being harassed by the police for performing something that is part of everyday life for a Muslim,’” MSA faculty advisor William Zangeneh-Lester said. “So that got the conversation going about how can we have a safe space for Muslims to be on campus.”
This conversation developed into the meditation room because ARC is a publicly funded secular institution, the school cannot set aside a space dedicated solely for Muslims. The meditation room is a non-denominational safe space available to anyone who needs a quiet space for reflection, according to Zangeneh-Lester.
The meditation room is located in the Center for Leadership and Development across the hall from the Starbucks in the Student Center; the meditation room is available through reservation or on a drop-in basis, students can use the meditation room Mondays through Fridays for up to 30 minutes except between the hours of 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. when the room is only available for 15 minutes according to CLD student staff member Mona Mogharabin.
The reduced session times during the afternoon are to accommodate a larger number of students using the room.
“We have more students coming for prayer during that time.” Mogharabin said.