Orlando airport’s prayer room is tailored to Muslims but open to anyone — and conservatives are furious
The Orlando International Airport is building a Muslim-style prayer room after beginning nonstop flights to Dubai — but not everyone is on board with the plan.
The “Reflection Room” will be similar to chapels already set aside at many airports, although Orlando’s $250,000 space will offer facilities for Muslims to wash themselves before praying and signs to point them toward Mecca, reported The Friendly Atheist blog.
Muslims travelers currently pray in public spaces or restrooms, and prayer rugs are already available in the airport’s non-denominational chapel, but the new space caters to the hundreds of Muslim travelers expected daily coming to and from Dubai.
“These rooms provide travelers an opportunity to pray in their own way and have peace before they take on a long flight,” said Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida.
The room will be open to travelers from any faith — or even atheists who want some quiet time — but some conservative Christians are outraged.
“Yeah, that’s sure to make a Judeo-Christian nation feel more comfortable after seeing all the Islamic related tragedies that have taken place on our soil the past 15 years,” wrote a blogger for the Young Conservatives site. “This is merely a political correctness stunt.”
The room is set to open by Sept. 1, when the first direct flights to the United Arab Emirates are scheduled.
“Orlando is pathetic. Caving to Muslims and Sharia law,” one Facebook user wrote on the airport’s social media page. “I’ll find another airport to fly into.”
Some critics have speculated that taxpayers will be asked to pay for the room or wondered whether ticket prices will increase to offset the cost.
The airport receives 30 percent of its funding from the airlines, and the rest comes from user fees generated by the restaurants, hotels and other businesses that lease commercial space at the airport, officials said.
“We do use passenger facility charges that are built into ticket fees, as virtually all airports do, but there are no tax dollars provided at all for the operation of the airport,” said airport spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell.
She said the airport had received some negative feedback about the Reflection Room, but she assured travelers that all faiths would be respected there.