This university has already bent over backwards for religious accommodations. But why let them stop now, when there are other demands to be made? “Muslim students protest about prayer room at RMIT,” by Mark Dunn the Herald Sun, October 14 (thanks to Kyros):
Up to 1000 Muslim students at RMIT are protesting against sharing a multi-faith prayer room with Christians, Jews and worshippers of other faiths.
RMIT Islamic Society vice-president Mohamed Elrafihi said the university had promised Muslim students their own prayer room at the Swanston St campus.
Five refurbished multi-faith prayer rooms — including a foot-wash room for Muslims and a prayer room with Arabic signs and oriented towards Mecca — were opened to students earlier this year.
But Mr Elrafihi said the Islamic-themed prayer room can be booked by other religions, which would interrupt evening Muslim prayer times.
Islamic students have refused to use the new facilities, insisting one room be dedicated for use by Muslims.
“We have nothing against multi-faith, we support multi-faith,” Mr Elrafihi said.
He said RMIT had misled international students in previous promotions about Muslim prayer facilities.
“The Muslims were promised a dedicated room and that was taken from them. That has caused a lot of stress,” Mr Elrafihi said.
While refusing to use the new prayer facilities for the past eight months, up to 600 Muslim students have been worshipping outdoors each Friday in nearby Bowen St, or on other days on the lawns outside RMIT’s prayer halls in part of the old Melbourne jail.
“There has been days when it has been raining, hail and thunder,” Mr Elrafihi said.
He said Muslim students had nothing against other faiths.
But he said Jews, Christians and other religions using the centre were small in number and did not need their own dedicated facilities.
He explained that the Muslims were supported by Christian, Jewish and student union groups at the university.
RMIT Vice-Chancellor Professor Joyce Kirk said the university had spent significant resources on accommodating Muslim needs.
“RMIT University respects the rights of its students and staff to practise their chosen religions, and provides space for them to do so,” Prof Kirk said.
“RMIT offers five Muslim-friendly prayer rooms on its Victorian campuses, two in the city, two in Bundoora and one in Brunswick.”
She said the new spiritual centre in the city was specifically designed for Muslim students and staff, with separate female and male prayer rooms, washing facilities and social spaces.
She said several rooms were reserved for Muslims at specified times but conceded they could be booked by other faiths during other periods.
She rejected suggestions the university was in any way discriminating against Muslims.