RALEIGH, N.C. — Members of the Muslim community are asking Shaw University to reopen the mosque on campus to the public.
Members of the King Khalid mosque have held two protests outside of the building that houses the mosque and goes by the official university title, The International Studies Center. The group is slated to hold a third protest on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
Before the pandemic, members of the public could use the mosque for prayer and Sunday school.
The center broke ground in 1982 with a grant from a king in Saudi Arabia to expand the university’s scope of Middle Eastern studies and also provide a place of worship inside.
“I took my testimony of faith in this building, my shahadah. So I actually became a Muslim here," said Abdul Rahmann, a Shaw alum. "Once I came to the university, I met my wife in this building. And so this building has a lot of memories.”
He credits his studies at Shaw’s International Studies Center for deepening his faith.
“I want them to open the building so we can pray. We just want to pray simply. We just want to pray,” Rahmann said.
Nigel Edwards, an attorney for the nonprofit who has conducted the prayer services and Sunday school since 2005 at the center, says there have been efforts to close the mosque by the university in the past, but it never actually closed until COVID hit.
However, he believes COVID concerns shouldn’t be an issue any longer. Since the university's chapel services are open to the community, the group is asking for the mosque to be open as well.
"I don't understand though, if COVID is your reason, does being a part of the university staff or administration, does that make you immune from COVID? Obviously not," Edwards said. "So how can COVID be a connection with the fact that just because they're a part of the university, they can have services to the public and we can’t?"
On Jan. 27, Shaw University sent Spectrum News 1 the following statement:
"In response to recent protests, Shaw University respects the first amendment rights of individuals to peaceably assemble and voice their concerns. As previously announced, the International Studies Center on the campus of Shaw University is open and available for use to enrolled students; access to the mosque by Shaw Students is coordinated through the university's chaplain office. In the wake of the pandemic, the campus mosque will only be available to currently enrolled Shaw University students, and the revised hours of operation for the center will be communicated directly to students."
Clarification: This article has been updated to reflect that the protest planned for Saturday will be at 11:30 a.m.