CAIRO – Enjoying a welcoming atmosphere, Muslim students at a Canadian university are celebrating the opening of a new prayer room to fulfil their religious duties.
“It’s beautiful,” Hasna Egal, a fourth-year neuroscience student, told university newspaper The Varsity on Monday, February 11.“The Muslim prayer space is welcoming, clean and very quiet.”
A new prayer room was opened at Emmanuel College in Toronto last month to help Muslim students perform their prayers.
“I think it’s going really well,” said Amjad Tarsin, the first Muslim chaplain at the University of Toronto.
“The space is very beautiful. The whole space fills up every prayer time, but what’s also really cool is that you can find people studying there and using it as a hangout space.”
The new prayer space has cost $25,000, which was shared by the Canadian Jaffari Muslim Foundation, the Islamic Foundation of Toronto, the Islamic Institute of Toronto, the Muslim Chaplaincy, and the Muslim Students Association at University of Toronto.
The cost of the $75,000 ablutions facility was shared by Emmanuel College and Victoria College.
Muslim students also welcome non-Muslim colleagues at their new prayer room.
“It’s definitely inclusive and I wouldn’t see why not. Students are welcome to observe prayers,” Tarsin said.
“I don’t think it hurts to have a few places around campus for prayer and worship. It’s what students need.”
Muslims make around 2.8 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population.
A recent survey showed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian, and that they are more educated than the general population.
University officials opine that the move to open a prayer room for Muslim students helps promote inter-faith relations.
“There’s a history of Emmanuel College and the Muslim community that has been standing for about four years now,” College principal Mark Toulouse said.
“In February 2010, we started the Muslim studies program, as well as the Canadian Muslim continuing education certificate program. We also have a master’s program — the Muslim Studies track, for students interested in becoming Muslim chaplains.”
The programs focusing on Islam and new spaces for Muslim students are all an expansion of the college’s efforts to enrich multi-faith dialogue both on and off campus.
“So, we’ve looked at this question of increasing Muslim studies on campus, and recognize there’s a need to pay attention to the lived experience of what it means to be a person of faith as a Muslim,” Toulouse said.
Along with the Muslim-only prayer space, the university was also planning a more inclusive multi-faith prayer space to welcome all religions.
“We’ve officially confirmed the plan to make the prayer space this summer with the Robarts staff,” Toronto Students’ Union vice-president Noor Baig said.
“We haven’t advertised it yet, as we didn’t want students waiting too long in case of any delays. There’s always a need for more prayer areas on campus. Designating a space in Robarts makes sense — it’s a high traffic area in a central location.”
The new multi-faith center would also allow different groups to be able to use the space at the same time.
“We’ll definitely be spreading the word about it through all our different channels, and there will be a launch event,” said Baig.
The idea was getting students’ support already.
“It would be really convenient,” said Egal.
“Some of the other prayer areas around campus are tiny and cramped. It would be great to have a large space that’s central.”
It is all part of the bigger plan for inclusivity that the college principal highlighted.“It’s our responsibility to provide the space that will enable people to join our community and to live out what is important to them in terms of their faith,” Toulouse said.
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