Muslim Students Association, Algonquin College clash over prayer room
Author: Sophie Desrosiers
Source: Ottawa Sun, March 25, 2014
Original title: Muslim students, Algonquin College clash over spirituality centre
A group of Muslim students at Algonquin College are upset and say they are not being given fair use of the school’s spirituality centre.
The president of the Muslim Students Association, 19-year-old Abdalrahman Naddaf, told the Sun that while the school has agreed to certain compromises, the association feels more could be done.
The debate started last week when new policies were introduced.
The policies were introduced after complaints that the Muslim students were leaving their prayer mats on the floor after using the room.
Naddaf said the policies changed drastically and without warning on March 17, the first day of Islam awareness week on the campus.
Muslim students were busy with planned activities and prayers organized at other locations throughout the school.
Naddaf said this is why students were confused by the new policies, the removal of posts on their board and the sudden installation of cameras.
A day later, security informed them the centre would be closing at 6 p.m. instead of midnight. The students were asked to leave the centre immediately.
Muslims pray five times a day, and four of those prayer times happen to fall during their time spent at the college.
“We went and we prayed in front of the security office,” said Naddaf.
The location was an attempt to get the school’s attention and it worked. A meeting was called, but no agreements were made.
After the media was contacted, the hours were extended to 10 p.m.
But Naddaf is disappointed it took such extremes to be taken seriously.
Naddaf said the new policies don’t allow for posts to go up on bulletin boards before they are approved.
Another reason the group felt targeted was that on March 17, only their bulletin board had been cleared, while others remained up until the following day.
One of the Muslim Students Association’s biggest concern is the spirituality centre’s co-ordinator is a priest.
Naddaf believes the centre should, instead, be run by students.
Talks between the school and the association are set to continue later this week.
College officials told the Sun March 20 the rules for use of the space ensure it is kept clean and accessible to all groups.
Those rules are clearly laid out and they apply to all groups who use the space.
If there was any access limits placed, it was because the rules were not being respected, the college said.