FRISCO, Texas – There’s a special space for Muslim students at Liberty High School – room C112 — an empty classroom provided by the school for daily prayer sessions.
School officials initially opened up a small conference room for Islamic prayers in 2009 after they noticed some Muslim students leaving on Friday afternoons to pray, and demand eventually forced them to dedicate an entire classroom for the ritual.
“This is my seventh year at Liberty, my first year it kind of started when a core group of students were leaving campus every Friday for Friday prayer,” principal Scott Warstler told Wingspan, the student site.
“Their parents would pick them up, so they may miss an hour and a half to two hours to two and a half hours of school every Friday, so I met with those students and a couple of their parents and suggested if they would be okay if the students were able to lead the prayer at school as a group, and we gave them a space to do that so they didn’t have to be in a car traveling thirty minutes each way on a Friday missing an hour, hour and half, of class.”
Islamic Association of Collin County Youth Director Ryan Hillard explained why it’s important for Muslim students to have special access to C122 during lunch time every day.
“By praying five times a day, which includes movements such as bowing and prostrating where you actually place your forehead and the tip of your nose on to the floor and also facing a specific direction, not only shows uniformity, in terms of how Muslims pray together and come together for that purpose,” Hilliard said. “But even more importantly it shows that they’re willing to put their entire body and their entire mind and their soul into this act and be able to focus on that moment where they’re able to have this conversation with God, when in many other places they would not be able to do so.”
Warstler told Wingspan he’s never received a single complaint about the prayer room.
“Like I’ve said, this is the seventh year that we’ve been doing this and we’ve never had one issue. You know we have other religious student groups that meet maybe before school or maybe after school,” Warstler said “As long as it’s student-led, where the students are organizing and running it, we pretty much as a school stay out of that and allow them their freedom to practice their religion.”
Warstler’s inclusive and understanding attitude stands in stark contrast to the reaction other school officials in Texas and other states have shown to Christian students attempting to exercise their faith at school.
Last fall, officials at O’Donnell High School, in O’Donnell, Texas, rushed to cover up a student painting of the Ten Commandments and an accompanying Bible verse after a single complaint, EAGnews reports.
At Patterson Middle School in Killeen, Texas, school officials forced a staffer to censor her “A Charlie Brown Christmas” decorations to remove a reference to “Christ the Lord” shortly before Christmas, though a judge ultimately overruled the school, according to the Killeen Daily Herald.
But at Liberty High School, it’s live and let live, Wartstler told KERA Radio.
The station played audio of a student reciting the Islamic call to prayer in the classroom.
“They’re not out proselytizing,” he said. “They’re not out in the lunch periods trying to gain, you know. They take care of themselves in their group and they accept those that are a part of their group. And honestly, if others wanted to go in and learn and see and experience that, they’re OK with that.”
Unlike the general hostility against Christian students in many public schools, Muslim students at Liberty are welcomed, free to recite the Islamic call to prayer in peace, and it’s “really great,” junior Sarah Qureshi told Wingspan.
“It gives us a way to pray in a classroom and then go straight back to class,” Qureshi said. “It takes five minutes instead of having to leave school, get in the car, and go with my parents to the actual masjid and then coming back. When I first found out I was really shocked. I think it was a really great opportunity and I was pretty happy for it that we actually get to have this choice to go and to do what we have to do.”