In the last few days I have been tossing in my head a situation I have encountered at work…


At our Hospital we have a section called Chapel Hall…in this section there is a large Roman Catholic Church, a Synagogue, a Protestant Chapel and a Muslim Prayer room. I remember when the prayer room could barely fit more than 15 men at a time. In the past ten years it has become a large Mosque (courtesy of a Jewish Rabbi who vacated his office so we could enlarge the space) with beautiful wall to wall rugs, three beautiful large pieces of the Kabba covering courtesy of a royal visitor some years ago, air-conditioning, its own bathroom for Wudu; a women’s section, bookshelves that contain a growing collection of Islamic reference books, Qurans and other Islamic books. Friday Jum’ah has grown to a point where people have to wait for the group to finish so that a new group can come in.


Unfortunately, the growth has brought a few wrinkles. A few Fridays ago one of the men giving the Khutbah decided to use it as a political platform to vent on the issue of Gaza. This is a problem because the purpose of the Mosque within the confines of the Hospital is to serve patients and their families when said patients are at the hospital. It is a place for spiritual support; a place to pray in solitude or with someone by your side… I wonder what a patient’s family would think coming out of the ICU where a member is suffering; maybe even dying and entering to find the place packed with employees listening to calls unite in hatred; unite in solidarity; unite… would that person feel his crisis as important as those across the seas? Would they be happy, sad, angry, disappointed at the sight?


A group of  men have been pressuring Administration to find a larger space for the Mosque; even suggesting opening the balcony doors that leads off to a roof of an adjacent building…The security risks, the actual structural issues makes this suggestion prohibitive… In fact the sense that the Mosque is seen as private property of the Muslim employees who use it; and their idea to expand it to become a Community Masjid is more loudly emphasized at each meeting…


I am not sure of what others will say about all this; but I know as part of the Division that supervises the Chaplaincy service, my duty is to the patients first. I understand our need to have a place to pray; and I understand that we have under our Policy the privilege of religious accommodation- that allows us to pray; wear hijab and take our own religious holidays as employees of the Hospital. But the right of the patient and their family trumps the privilege of the employee in my eyes because we work at a hospital and all that we do is for the benefit of the patient and their families.


The Mosque can’t be seen as a “community” mosque in the normal sense- for one we don’t have an official Imam- because we are more than aware there are Shia as well as Sunni Muslim patients and employees. Also we, Administration, believe that to put one person as the representative of the Mosque would defeat the purpose of the Mosque as a fluid and neutral location for both sects to enter. It also serves to help prevent what happened with this particular Khutbah- but was unable to because now the next wrinkle has appeared…


A flyer has been circulating to the patients; not from the Department but from individuals within the hospital who have put their names as the representatives of each religion. The flyer does not show two Islamic representatives, one for each sect- but one… And knowing how the Khutbah incident had blood boiling and angry words bandied about; this latest wrinkle is bound to cause a problem…


This flyer was given to me during a meeting of hospitals considering a particular vendor for Halal food for our patients. The meeting was not well organized- I was called unexpectedly to come down minutes before it was due to start- it was delayed another half hour; the actual initiators of the meeting arrived another half hour later; the presentation was not well delivered; and we were not able to make any comments or ask any questions because the designated Imam of another facility felt he had been offended because we did not have a show and tell of persons present before the meeting- I have to say, as the only female attending the meeting- that I was embarrassed by the outburst of this man; his almost obtuse resistance to quiet down; and his disparaging comments on the organizers that were honestly uncalled for- regardless of the inefficient way the meeting had been conducted…The impression of the rest of the attendees- who knows? The vendor…


So why do these things have to happen? Why must we turn things around and make lasting impressions of the kind we can dearly afford? We have people bending the rules to fit their particular agendas; their particular views of what we need to do as Muslims; how we should act as a group- without truly discussing it with the group…


I have spoken to the Head of Chaplaincy who is trying hard to find the source of the flyer; as well as trying to figure out why our “group” would use the Mosque as a political platform in a location that is by right a patient’s space. And the reason why we can’t comport ourselves in polite society… I could have said a lot of things; but they would have been all my opinion and not the consensus, so all I could say was that the Division would make resources available to remedy these things…meaning a call to a few of the brothers from each sect to bring home the message- the Masjid is Hospital property and by right the patient’s space- not our private domain… it is not a community where we seek to expand…if other hospitals use our Masjid- we need to help those hospitals have prayer areas of their own so that we can have the space that was originally intended for patients be theirs again…


I dread the day a patient or a family member comes to the Masjid to pray and can’t enter because it is packed with employees… There will be too many explanations to be had…


2 Responses to “Dilemma…”

  1. February 5, 2009 at 11:45 am

    The chapel hall sounds like a lovely place, and your prayer room/mosque sounds very special. you are absolutely right in the mosque being for patients and their families first. I think it is completely inappropriate to have some agressive demagogues taking it over as their peronal masjid! I think you should fight this agressive take-over any way possible.

    • 2 INAL
      February 5, 2009 at 3:24 pm

      Aafke, thanks its a very special place indeed.

      I have had a meeting with the group since posting this; and honestly they were not prepared for what Administration had to say. They have three weeks to come up with plans not on expansion and who’s Imam or not; but on (1) what they plan to do about the Washing of the Dead for those who pass away without known family members and even for those who have families that have no idea how to proceed; (2)what type of support system they are going to have for Muslims who are in Psychiatric wards or in Substance Abuse units; (3) who will be part of an ongoing list of participants to be available for patients who are in the ICU; and (4) what will be done to give moral and spiritual support to patients in our Cancer Center and in Maternity where we are finding many have premature babies that require much more than most parents bargain for.

      They looked at me like I had stripped my hijab off my head! I simply stated that if they wanted more say in the Masjid- this is what more say meant to Administration- they had to “work” to get these support systems in place for our Muslim patients.

      So I will update you at the end of the month to see what the demagogues are going to do…Step up to the plate; or beat a hasty retreat to their five daily prayers.

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