“I was so touched by the kind-hearted support I found,” Atul said in a school statement.
Atul, whose full name is Nur Adiatul Amiera Binti Zulkurnain, recently moved from Malaysia to attend the public Northcoast Preparatory Academy (NPA) in Arcata, California.
As a practicing Muslim, Atul prays five times a day. Though she was happy in Arcata, she quickly found that the city was not equipped with the prayer rooms that she was accustomed to in Malaysia.
“In my country, they are everywhere, as my country is a majority Muslim country,” said Atul.
Raising awareness about her plight, several schools and organizations offered up their facilities for her to use as prayer rooms.
The assistant manager of local bookstore Tin Can Mailman even offered up two of their spare rooms for Atul to use for prayer.
“Tin Can Mailman gave me two spaces: they explained that one of the spaces might sometimes not be available if there are books on the floor, and in that case, I could always use the other room,” she said.
The support and hospitality she received have also reaffirmed her faith in humanity.
She even made a video of her work with the community to find prayer rooms in Arcata, so that she could practice her faith, and that future Muslim students have these resources.
“I was scared at first because I was still wondering ‘What is it like to be a Muslim in America?’” said Atul.
“But with my community support, I know that even if we have many differences such as in religion and faith, we still can be connected as human beings. We will never be disconnected as long as we are being kind-hearted to each other.”
Muslims pray five times a day, with each prayer made 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.
Malaysia has a population of nearly 26 million, with Malays, mostly Muslims, making up nearly 60%.
Although Islam arrived in the country about 700 years ago, the faith was marginalized during the more than 400 years of European occupation which has just ended in 1957.
Since then, Islam has once again become central to the Malay society.