I have been having a politeness dilemma - does anyone have some perspective on this?

I share a grad student office with probably upwards of fifteen students - there are only six desks, but not many students seem to use the office. Most of the time there is maybe one other person there.

A fellow grad student of mine is Muslim and she keeps her prayer mat in the office. She seems to use the office space for her daily prayers when she is on campus.


I have no problem at all with this, and it doesn't make me uncomfortable in general. However, I don't know if I should be giving her privacy while she prays! Twice now I've been chatting with a classmate when she started praying, and a few other times I've just been quietly marking. When I was talking to someone, we kept talking while she prayed (silently or really quietly). I'm not sure about my friend, but I didn't want to make things awkward by trailing off in mid-sentence and making her feel like she was imposing on us or that we were waiting for her to finish or something. But afterward I felt like it was disrespectful!

I don't know her at all, so I would be way too shy to ask. Do you guys have any idea? Is it more polite/respectful to give her some privacy, or continue what we were doing, or just be quiet? I don't think this is only Muslim-relevant, but I haven't run across people of any faith praying in public before. Do you pray in public? How do you prefer people to respect your space?

I can't imagine it's easy to do something like that at school, so I'd like to respect her space without making her feel weird. I also know that this is probably personal and preferences might range between people, but GT is such a great place to come for advice, so here I am!