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The Carletonian

Campus to include Muslim interest house

< complement to the longstanding Christian and Jewish interest houses, a Muslim interest house will be created next year.
Page West, which is currently a draw-in option for five students, was the Muslim interest house until the 2012-2013 school year, according to Chaplain Carolyn Fure-Slocum. The interest house ceased to exist because there was not enough student interest to continue.

“We are hoping that the house will again be a center for Muslim community and worship life, as well as a place to host discussions and other forms of outreach to build understanding,” Fure-Slocum said.
Sarah Chebli ’20 has been the main student involved in organizing the house for next year.

Chebli said she first thought about recreating the Muslim interest house after she spoke with another student who said his sister, a recent alumna, used to live in the house.

“When I first came to Carleton fall term, I heard there used to be a Muslim house, and I was like, ‘Is there a way we could bring it back?,’” Chebli said. “Then, it just started snowballing from there in figuring out the logistics. Since the house used to be here, it has been a little easier to advocate for.”

“It isn’t starting from scratch, which is good,” said Ailya Vajid, Associate Chaplain for Muslim and Interfaith Life who will serve as the house advisor. “I also think this particular political climate in this country about Islam made it easy to push for in the local community, in regards to support.”

Vajid emphasized that Carleton’s Muslim community is excited to have its own home space. Currently, many Muslim faith events are held in the chapel, whereas events for the Christian and Jewish communities are often held in their respective houses. There has been discussion of developing a mosque-like space in Page West, according to Vajid.

She also mentioned the benefits of the particular location for the house.

“What’s interesting is that it will be right on the other side of the Jewish interest house,” Vajid said. “I think this is symbolic that these two houses will be together, and this new house will be support for further opportunities to collaborate.”

In fact, Vajid said that next year, there will be an interfaith text study between the students in Page East, the Jewish interest house, and Page West, the Muslim interest house.

Both Page East and Page West are across the street from Douglas, which is home to F.I.S.H., a Christian community on campus.

The Muslim interest house will be all-women, substance free and follow Halal, the dietary restrictions of Islam.

Chebli explained that one of the biggest challenges the campus’ Muslim community faces is Ramadan, which in 2018, will occur during the last month of spring term. Since the dining halls are not open at the break of dawn, the time in which Muslims break the fast each day of  Ramadan, one of the plans for the house is to have food readily available for fasting Muslims during the month.

Although the house will be all women, anyone can visit during the day. Chebli, who chooses to wear the hijab and only lets other women see her hair, discussed the difficulties of  having to remember to veil when in her current dorm, which is coed. She looks forward to a living space where she does not have to stress about this.

“Everyone will be welcome in the house,” Vajid stated. “But the living aspect of it will be just for women.”

Chebli’s focus now is on recruitment for Muslim interest house, with outreach in particular to students identifying as Muslim and those who have studied Islam or Arabic in classes. She said she has found several women, both Muslim and non-Muslim, who are interested in living in the interest house. At this point, effort is focused on having these people commit, so the plan can proceed accordingly. Students who are interested in living there are encouraged to email Vajid.

ResLife director Andrea Robinson explained the process for creating and recreating interest houses.

“Since the Muslim interest house used to be around, it is kind of grandfathered in, which makes the development process much simpler,” she said. “But in general, if an organization wants an interest house and they have staff/faculty support, usually that should work. On the end of ResLife, our focus is mainly on filling the occupancies.”

“Conversations” and “understanding” were terms that all those interviewed emphasized, as a way of helping the campus community understand Islam better.

“I really would like the house to be a space where people can come, drink tea and have conversations about Islam and related matters,” Chebli said.

While the Muslim interest house is not completely new to the Carleton community, Vajid emphasized that there is still a lot of freedom in planning for the house. “I think the residents will end up shaping the house in the way they want,” Vajid said.

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