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Stadium Provides Muslim Prayer Space

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  • World View
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 6, 2005
      Wayne Parry, Associated Press, 11/22/05

      NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority
      says it will provide a special area for anyone who wants a place to
      pray while at Giants Stadium or the Continental Airlines Arena _ a
      reaction to Muslim groups' outcries after several fans who prayed at a
      New York Giants game were detained and questioned by the FBI in September.

      Sohail Mohammed, the lawyer for the Totowa-based American Muslim
      Union, met Sunday with officials from the sports authority, the FBI
      and private companies that work at the Meadowlands to educate them
      about Islam and the cultural and religious practices of Muslims.

      Five Muslim men attending the Sept. 19 Giants game against the New
      Orleans Saints were detained and questioned for about a half hour by
      the FBI after they were observed praying at the stadium. The men
      claimed they were singled out because of their faith, but the FBI said
      the men were flagged by stadium security because they were in a
      sensitive area near the stadium's main air intake duct.
      Former President Bush was on hand that night as part of a fundraising
      campaign he and former President Clinton were leading for victims of
      Hurricane Katrina.

      The men were allowed to return to the stadium, but in different seats,
      and were escorted to their cars when they left.

      George Zoffinger, the sports authority president, said space will be
      set aside at the stadium and the arena for anyone of any faith who
      wishes to pray. The exact spots have not yet been designated, he said.

      "I think we did this thing exactly right," Zoffinger said. "We took it
      seriously. We did not like the connotation that we were profiling. We

      "With this agreement, we hope we've created an atmosphere where anyone
      can come to our facilities and feel comfortable," he said.

      Mohammed said anyone who wants to use the prayer areas should approach
      stadium security, who usually wear yellow jackets emblazoned with the
      words "Event Staff," who will then direct them to the appropriate areas.

      Word of the agreement is to be circulated to mosques and Islamic
      centers throughout the state this week, he said.

      Mohammed said sports authority staff said they also may extend prayer
      areas to the Meadowlands Racetrack.

      "I told them you won't get many Muslims using that area because
      gambling is forbidden in Islam, but I understand there is quite a bit
      of praying going on among the track patrons while the horses are
      running," he joked.


      RICK MALWITZ, News Tribune, 11/24/05

      When two of the losingest teams in the National Football League meet
      Sunday at Giants Stadium, an area will be set aside for something both
      teams would likely welcome. Prayer.

      Beginning with the game between the Jets and New Orleans Saints -
      which have each lost eight of 10 games this season - an area will be
      set aside for people of all faiths "for personal relection," according
      to the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.

      Setting aside space at Giants Stadium and the Continental Airlines
      Arena follows an incident Sept. 19 when five Muslims were questioned
      by the FBI after their prayer near an air duct at the stadium raised

      "This is a good gesture on their part. I hope it will be an example to
      all sports teams," said Mostafa Khalifa of Howell, one of the five men
      who missed much of the Sept. 19 game while they were questioned by

      "This is a great step for all religions," said Sami Shaban of
      Piscataway, who organized the trip to the game when scarce tickets to
      a Giants home game were made available after the game was moved from
      New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

      "We live in a changing society, we are trying to be as respectful as
      possible to all of our patrons," said George R. Zoffinger, president
      and CEO of the authority.

      "We reached out to the community that felt offended, and we consulted
      with other religious people as well. This will be a space available
      for everyone to come and reflect in their own personal manner. It is
      not specific to any one religion or denomination," Zoffinger said.

      A press release by the Sports and Exposition Authority did not use the
      word "prayer," using "reflection" instead.

      The space will be called the "Quiet Space." It will resemble places
      available at hospitals and airports, although the exact location has
      not yet been identified. Fans wanting to know its location will be
      instructed to ask personnel with Event Staff uniforms.

      Shaban and Khalifa, whose friendship began when the two attended
      Rutgers University, adhere to the beliefs of the Muslim faith, which
      calls on believers to pray five times a day, during specific windows
      of time.

      They are not subtle prayers: During the prayer, they go to their
      knees, press their foreheads to the ground and pray in the direction
      of Mecca.

      On their way to their seats at the Sept. 19 game, the five Muslims
      went to an isolated area of the stadium, not knowing it was near an
      air duct which draws fresh air into indoor spaces in the stadium. The
      game was played during a period of heightened alert, eight days after
      the anniversary of 9/11, with former President Bush in attendance to
      publicize a Katrina relief fund.

      "We responded to a suspicious activity," said FBI spokesman.

      The five Muslims were ushered from their seats by uniformed personnel.
      "Clearly, we looked like criminals, said Shaban, who, like Khalifa,
      wears his beard long.

      Shaban and Khalifa said an issue that lingers is the one of
      "profiling." They suggested that five Christians praying in an
      isolated area of the stadium would not have raised the same suspicions.

      The two participated in a Nov. 2 news conference in New York, hosted
      by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, whose executive
      director, Wissam Nasr, said, "This is a teachable moment. When you see
      Muslims praying, it's not a terrorist act." (MORE)




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