Rental costs anger Muslims at Calgary
By Anton Vidgen
Muslim students at the University of Calgary are upset over having to rent prayer space on campus and are planning to file a human rights complaint against the school.
Although a formal statement will be issued next week, Mubashir Iqbal, the president of the Muslim Students' Association, said the current problem has been ongoing for years, but added the issue entails more than just having to pay.
Iqbal said the university originally planned to build a new multi-faith centre on campus by September 2003, which would allow the MSA to use it for prayer, but the centre's construction is still underway, forcing the religious student group to scrounge for space.
If the building had been constructed on time, Iqbal said, the MSA would not be in such a situation. "If that was done, we wouldn't have this problem," he added.
The MSA has been charged $2,455.65 for approximately three weeks worth of room rentals in a building owned by the Students' Union, but so far has not paid any bills, Iqbal explained.
"We're trying to treat all clubs equally," said Gavin Preston, VP-finance and operations for the Students' Union. He said they operate on a cost-recovery basis for clubs and students, noting it costs "well over a million dollars [a year]" to maintain the students' building.
Saying the issue was not one of discrimination, Preston stated it would be inappropriate to grant special consideration to the MSA. "It would almost be discriminatory against all the other clubs we have," he said.
Clubs sanctioned by the Students' Union - such as the MSA - are eligible for two free room bookings a week and after that only pay 50 per cent of the regular fees charged for room rentals, Preston explained.
Iqbal, however, said this was inadequate for the religious needs of the club's members. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan requires prayer five times a day and three of those times fall during daytime university hours.
Muslim students at Western have access to a no-cost prayer room in Rm. 214 of University College, said Adrienne Kennedy, VP-campus issues for the University Students' Council.