Public prayer aims to reject misconceptions about Islam

Muslim students from SF State and CCSF gathered on Friday afternoon to pray at Malcolm X Plaza despite having had to face criticisms in the past.

SF State’s Muslim student association, in partnership with CCSF’s MSA, arranged to do Jumaa, a congregational Friday prayer, together. SF State’s Muslim students usually did this in the Rosa Parks conference room, which makes “Jumaa Under the Sun” the first public prayer this academic year.

According to junior economics major Suhaib Ahmed, praying in a public open space is a great opportunity to clear misconceptions regarding Islam and to show people that today’s political climate won’t make them refrain from practicing their religion.

“There’s certain fears that come along with it,” Ahmed said. “But we want to be vocal and show that we’re peaceful people and that this is what we do.”

Ahmed, who was once cornered by armed police officers while praying in a public area, said that this fear has intensified since Trump was elected, but he believes that advocating for change by being open about Islam is more important that his concerns about any potential backlash.

MSA members, Sara Safawt from CCSF and Amran Aldisay from SF State, who helped organize the public prayer, said that they have also received some anti-Islamic reactions before but that didn’t stop them from openly practicing their religion.

“We’re hard-headed,” junior computer engineering Aldisay said. “We’re going to do it again and again because I don’t see that there’s anything wrong with it.”

Sociology major Safawt said that at CCSF, they make sure that their events are inclusive of all people regardless of their religion and sometimes this has resulted in some negative comments, which they reported to the dean of students.

Senior nursing major Inga Knudson, who was born and raised in Iowa and was surrounded by Christian white people for the majority of her life, said that she appreciated the Muslim students’ openness about their religion — despite the numerous hate crimes around the country — because it has given her an opportunity to see a diversity in religious and cultural expression on campus.

“I think this public prayer is risky in a way that it would be to wear a hijab, the same way that it’s risky to be openly transgender, to be non-white and walk around especially in this climate of rising white supremacy and fascism, but I don’t think that that means that we should refrain from engaging in public expression.” Knudson said.

Mavee Vasan, a visitor from Ohlone College, who sat to watch the prayer, said that public prayers are a good opportunity for students to learn about Islam and form a sense of community with them.

“This is a good way to engage in religious activities in an open environment where everyone is able to see how peaceful this union is and that their prayers signify the strength they hold within themselves despite all the backlash they’ve faced recently,” Vasan said.