MSA praying ousted from UCC
By Mark Brown
Muslim students told the University Students' Council last night they are outraged they will no longer be able to conduct their Friday prayer sessions in the University Community Centre.
On Monday, the University Students' Council Board of Directors upheld a decision by the UCC scheduling office not to move furniture out of the third floor meeting rooms.
Hussein Hamdani, second-year law student and president of the MSA, said the moving of furniture is necessary to accommodate their prayer sessions.
The policy was not directed at the Muslim Students' Association, said Peter Hill, USC VP-campus issues. The policy was intended to control the damage to the building and so the rooms can be used for their intended purpose as meeting rooms, Hill explained.
Hill added he would assist the MSA find alternative locations to hold their prayer sessions on campus.
USC president Ian Armour, said the board's decision not to provide space to the MSA was not based solely on the issue of moving furniture. "It was agreed that there would be no rooms allocated specifically for religious reasons," he said, referring to the policy the USC signed with the university in regard to the use of space in the UCC.
"We wouldn't give [space] to a Christian group if they wanted space to pray either," Armour added.
However, Hamdani was not convinced by the USC's arguments. "What this does, in effect, is it negates any possibility for Muslim students to pray in the student centre, even the education resource centre was prohibited to us.
"The university says there are 1,000 Muslim students on campus each paying $130 in USC fees. That is $130,000 that Muslim students are giving to the USC and then they prohibit that we want to pray one hour per week," Hamdani said.
Member of Muslim Legal Society and third-year law student Talaal Bond said this policy prohibits Muslim students from practising their basic religious freedoms which could have a discriminatory effect towards Muslim students, Bond explained.
Bond told the council last night that the MSA is not seeking to use the conference rooms in the UCC every Friday. "We are not talking about a permanent arrangement."
Last year the MSA used the UCC four times because their normal space in the Law Building was needed for other functions, Bond explained.
Western's VP-administration Peter Mercer said he was not aware Muslim students had a concern regarding space to hold their prayer sessions. "We have tried to accommodate them in their needs in the past," he said.
Mercer added he would consider providing Muslim students alternative space for their prayer sessions. "We try to entertain all requests that are made."