“Muslims playing for power,” by Sarah Boesveld in The Eyeopener, the Ryerson University student paper (thanks to Patrick). Ryerson is in Toronto.
As the largest student group on campus, the Muslim Students’ Association has made its presence known in student politics. Former MSA vice-president Muhammad Ali Jabbar is heading up the RSU, thanks to support from the MSA. The group has monopolized use of the multifaith room, putting the true meaning of the room’s name in jeopardy.
Through its renewed fight against Islamophobia, the MSA has also been criticized as being increasingly polarized and turning the RSU’s attention mostly toward Muslim issues. Smaller religious groups with less influence have been left wondering when their needs will be addressed.
A variety of religious groups on campus have said they have felt uncomfortable trying to use the multifaith room.
Eric Da Silva, president of the Catholic Student Association, says the group looked into using the room for mass but was told by RSU front desk staff that the room was “permanently booked”; by Muslim students.
“No one is trying to take away the space from the Muslims, we just don’t want to be stepping on their toes,” says Da Silva. He stresses that the group found another space to hold mass and the conflict was quickly resolved. Da Silva acknowledges that Muslims have a stricter prayer schedule than Catholics, but he challenges whether the room should be called a multifaith one. The space, which is divided to separate males from females, has rows taped on the floor for prayer and Islamic decorations adorning the walls, is only accommodating to Muslims.
“I don’t think the university should be calling it a multifaith room. If we went in there and decorated the room with rosary and crosses, other students would feel uncomfortable praying there,” he says.
The Ismaili Student’s Association, a smaller Muslim student group that practices the Shiite Muslim religion, has experienced conflicting schedules with the MSA for prayer space during the month of Ramadan. On a regular basis, the smaller group uses the multi-faith room for prayer between 6 and 7 p.m. During Ramadan, when Muslims break their fast at sunset, the Ismaili students, who practice a separate form of prayer were resigned to finding somewhere else to pray.
“We were pretty much in a different room every night for a month,” says a member of the group who wished not to be named. “It can be frustrating at times, but you kind of have to make the best of the situation,” she says of having to move so the MSA can use the room.
Read it all.