Sunday, December 03, 2006

Muslim Prayer (And/Or Terrorist Plotting) Room Sought At MSP

The seven Muslim men drew a few stares as they laid down their prayer rugs and knelt on the hard rubber floor at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. They might draw less attention, they told airport officials, if they had a separate room in which they could say one of their five daily prayers to Mecca. "When we pray, we don't want a problem. We don't want what happened last week," said Abdulrehman Hersi, an imam at Darul-Quba mosque in Minneapolis, referring to the group of six Muslim clerics who were removed last week from a US Airways flight in Minneapolis after attracting concern from passengers.The group of Somali clerics said they wanted to open better lines of communication with airport officials after both the US Airways incident and a recent flap over Muslim cab drivers who didn't want to pick up passengers carrying alcohol. "We are users of the airport too, and we don't want to get into a situation where Muslims feel we are being marginalized at the airport," said Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in St. Paul and the organizer of the demonstration and meeting. Airport Director Steve Wareham said he'd consider setting aside a private area for prayers, or simply for passengers who need a few minutes of quiet time. He said some airports around the country have so-called "meditation rooms" for that purpose. Airports in Nashville, Tenn.; Columbus, Ohio; and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., all advertise meditation rooms. Fort Lauderdale's is billed as "For travelers seeking a quiet time." All make sure to note they are nonsectarian. After their prayer, the group of clerics went into a private meeting with Wareham and officials from the airport's police force. Airport spokesman Pat Hogan said the group didn't make any specific demands, but were more interested in forging a better relationship with airport decision-makers. Hogan said the clerics invited a group from the airport to come visit a mosque, an offer Hogan said they would accept. "I think there's a mutual recognition that it would be helpful for there to be a solid understanding," Hogan said.