THE new school year has taken added significance for Launceston's Muslim population, with the city's first purpose-built prayer room much more than upgraded real estate.
It is now five months since the University of Tasmania opened the new facility at its Newnham Campus, with students, lecturers and refugee families declaring Launceston a friendly place for Islam.
The university's previous prayer room - a faded weatherboard schoolhouse - was a tight fit for a community that had grown past 200 people, with only two water basins available to perform ablutions.
Now both men and women have their own facilities with six washing terminals, with the former computer lab also fitted with a kitchenette, lush carpet, heating, and curtain dividers.
It has certainly impressed physician Abdul Majeed, of Saudi Arabia.
Mr Majeed has been in Tasmania for four years and is studying a masters of biomedical science.
"You must realise that this is more than a place to pray for us," he said.
"It is something which helps build bridges within the community, helping people who are new to this place to feel welcome and accepted.
"I know if I spoke to my friends about coming here to live, I would definitely recommend it."
Mr Majeed said the five daily prayer times were attended by up to 20 people, while Friday's congregational Jumuah prayers sometimes saw 150 come along.
"These are not just students, these are people throughout the community who come together," he said.
"It is a meeting point, a place to see our friends. It gathers us all together. It is a binding place."
Singaporean Fazreen Aris, who is studying marine engineering at the Australian Maritime College, said the room was critical for student well-being.
"When we are stressed with studying or work, or feeling deflated, we can come here and connect with God and let those feelings go," Mr Aris said.
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