As the month of Ramadan approaches, Muslim students at Binghamton University will have several options to commute to a local mosque, with a stop added to Off Campus College Transport (OCCT) routes and a student-run transport service being offered by Decol A.
OCCT’s additional stop will run from May 5, the beginning of Ramadan, to the last day of finals, May 17. The additional stop, located at the corner of Willow Street and Grand Avenue, will affect the West Side Outbound and Inbound routes, depositing riders near the Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier (IOST) at 161 Grand Ave.
Following the murder of Shakeel Khan, a Johnson City resident and the Muslim owner of Halal Bites, a restaurant frequented by Muslim and Desi students at BU, various multicultural organizations signed a letter to University administrators calling for transportation to be provided to Muslim students during Ramadan.
“We demand that secure transportation is provided to religious buildings across these areas, especially during the holy month of Ramadan,” the letter read. “We need the addition of one stop to the IOST mosque on Grand Avenue by taking the detour off Floral Avenue, in Johnson City.”
Although the additional stop will provide transportation for Muslim students during Ramadan, the stop was not specifically designated as such in OCCT’s service update on Monday night. OCCT declined to comment on what prompted the change in route.
Before the release of the update, Decol A, a student activist group focused on Pan-Asian and Pacific Islander communities, had set up a carpool program for students during Ramadan.
“Due to the lack of urgent action from the University, we’ve had to form our own [student- and community-based], free and safe [service] for the month of Ramadan, in which many Muslim students will be frequenting mosques for Taraweeh prayers late at night,” a spokesperson for the group wrote in an email.
Although OCCT is now planning to add an extra stop, Decol A members said the change still does not address several key issues.
“The transport system offered by the University does not specify that this stop is for the masjid, and was instead advertised as just another ‘location’ or ‘shift in scheduling,’” the spokesperson wrote. “Ideally, the University should be implementing the stop permanently as it is only a two minute detour that can be easily implemented and made up for, but right now we’re focusing on Ramadan which starts on May 5.”
Asharee Mahmood, a junior double-majoring in integrative neuroscience and philosophy and a member of the Muslim Student Association (MSA), said he is happy to see campus organizations making efforts to better serve the Muslim community at the University.
“[Decol A] deserve a round of applause for taking the steps to do that,” Mahmood said. “That makes life a lot more convenient for students here who are fasting. I know a lot of students who don’t have cars and would like to also observe their faith. You know, go to the mosque and things like that so having shuttles like that is very convenient.”
Mahmood said he was also pleased to see OCCT consider Muslim students while making service changes.
“I think it’s great that they are accommodating the Muslim population of Binghamton[’s] campus,” Mahmood said. “It’s about time.”