Hindus are urging for a permanent and exclusive Prayer Room at University of Iowa (UI), a top public research university in Iowa City founded in 1847.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that UI should respond to the requirements of Hindu students to provide designated prayer-meditation hall for rituals, quiet reflection, festivals and spiritual exercise, which would help in their personal growth.
UI, “1st tax-supported college to establish a school of religion”, already has a Chapel (Danforth Chapel reportedly with pews-altar-cross, designed “to recall St. John’s Methodist Episcopal Church” in northeast Johnson County); two carpeted Muslim prayer rooms (reportedly one for men and one for women, with shoe racks, and with 24/7 access); and Center for Jewish Life (a multi-purpose facility which calls itself “centerpiece of Jewish life on campus”). In addition, at UI Hospitals and Clinics, a Catholic Mass (televised on Channel 4.5) is held in Carver Pavilion on Sundays, and Islamic Prayer is held in Pomerantz Family Pavilion on Friday afternoons.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out that Hindu Prayer Room would be a step in the positive direction in view of presence of a substantial number of Hindu students at UI, as it was important to meet the spiritual needs of these students. Some other universities/colleges in USA now offered Hindu prayer room.
Rajan Zed urged all US higher education institutions, both public and private, to respond to the needs of their considerable Hindu student bodies and offer prayer facility. UI needed to recognize the intersection of spirituality and education, which was important in Hinduism, Zed added.
Zed suggested that the Hindu Prayer Room preferably should have a shrine containing murtis (statues) of popular Hindu deities like Shiva, Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, Durga, Venkateshwara, Ganesha, Murugan, Saraswati, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Kali, etc.; besides being equipped with ghanta (big metallic bell hanging from the ceiling), dholak (two-headed hand-drum), Shiva-linga, etc.
If UI really believed in its Nondiscrimination Statement contained in its Operations Manual (The university also affirms its commitment to providing equal opportunities and equal access to university facilities), it should be more receptive to the needs of its diverse student body and staff, Zed indicated.
Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in USA.
UI with over 31,000 students, a member of the Big Ten conference and home to one of the nation’s largest academic medical centers, was “1st public university in Iowa”. J. Bruce Harreld is the President.