As a devout Muslim, Zakkiyya Witherspoon has been forced to pray in closets and behind bookshelves for years because of lack of designated place to pray at work.
In a form of good news to Muslim students and staff, Cambridge Public Schools have established ‘sacred spaces’ dedicated for prayers.
The decision makes Cambridge the first public school district in New England to give students and staff a space to observe religious or spiritual practices, NBC Boston reported.
“A Muslim who is obligated to pray several times a day goes through an internal conflict when they are not able to fulfill that obligation,” said Witherspoon.
During these years, she co-founded Muslim Community of Cambridge Public Schools, which advocated for sacred spaces to be offered at all Cambridge Public Schools.
“We’re finally getting to a place where we can openly be our whole selves in our workplace and the same is true for our students,” said Witherspoon.
“When they can come to school and not have in the back of their mind ‘Oh, I have to pray and there is nowhere to pray and I don’t want to tell my friends that I have to do this, maybe they’ll make fun of me,’ it normalizes this activity and it’s a comfort.”
Muslims pray five times a day, with each prayer made up of a series of postures and movements, each set of which is called a rak‘ah.
The five prayer times are divided all through the day which starts with Fajr prayer at dawn.
Seventh-grade student Ilwaad Muhumed is one of the students relieved by the new decision.
“Normally I would pray at home, but sometimes I would have to miss some prayers because the prayers are before school ends,” said Muhumed.
“Now I’m not missing them I feel happier and closer to God.”