Earlier this week, the Office of Mission Integration hosted the grand opening and dedication of Marygrove’s Interfaith Prayer Room. Reporter Ali Harb was in attendance and featured the event in this morning’s edition of The Arab American News.
DETROIT — Marygrove College, a private Catholic school, has established an interfaith prayer room, which will serve as a space for prayer for Muslim students. Marygrove's president and staff, along with students and representatives from the Muslim community, celebrated on Wednesday Jan. 15, the grand opening of the room, reflecting the college's diversity.
President of Marygrove College Dr. David Fike said the celebration of the interfaith prayer room is "symbolic" of our coming together as diverse communities and individuals in the journey of life.
Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America stressed the common spiritual goal of all religions.
"All roads lead to god," he said. "We worship him in different languages, and he's the one who understands all languages. By celebrating the grand opening of this chapel, we are celebrating our commonalities. And I'm sure our commonalities outnumber our differences."
Alia Zeidan, a Marygrove graduate, started attending the college in 2008. She said it was hard for her to drive 30 minutes to Dearborn to pray when she had morning and afternoon classes.
Zeidan proposed the idea of the prayer room in 2011 at a business class.
"We have chapels in the school. I thought to myself why can't Muslim students have a place to pray," she said. "I talked to [director of campus ministry] brother Jesse Cox about the issue, especially that the number of Muslims on campus was growing because of the soccer scholarships and the international studies program."
Zeidan said she did not actively push the project, as she was busy with her academic life. But at the same, the school was following through with the proposal.
Janice Machusak, Marygrove's director of mission integration, voiced Zeidan's demands to the school's leadership. The college consulted community organizations in Dearborn to pick an appropriate room.
In the Fall semester of 2013, which was Zeidan's last, the room became available to students. Zeidan said she raised about $600 for rugs, prayer dresses and Qurans for the room.
"I was very excited. I wanted to see it happen before I left," she said. "This room makes us feel equal. They have a place to pray; we have a place to pray. We believe in the unity of all religions. This school is like a family. You never feel alienated because of your faith."
Zeidan said she could not obtain the exact number of Muslim students at the school while proposing the project because it is optional to declare faith on the college application. But according to her estimates, about 100 Muslims attend Marygrove.
Zeidan thanked the school for its efforts to accommodate Muslim students and singled out Machusak in her gratitude.
Noor Hussein, who moved recently to the U.S. and is pursuing a degree in social studies at Marygrove, said she did not expect to see a Muslim prayer room in an American Catholic college.
"It's a beautiful thing," she said.
Marygrove is sponsored by The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (I.H.M.), a Catholic religious institute based in Monroe, Michigan. The school was established in Detroit as a 2-year college in 1905. Today 984 undergraduate and 1,713 postgraduate students attend the school.
Machusak thanked the students "who started this conversations."
"Students have been the driving force behind everything we do," she said.