Muslims wait on permanent prayer space

By Chris Adams

After months of movement and confusion, University of Calgary Muslim students may have a permanent prayer space. But they will have to wait for it.

The Students’ Union and university administration are considering moving the prayer space to a room below the Dining Centre that used to house the U of C International Space.

SU president Jarett Henry said the plan is still tentative, adding that the new space is at least a year away.

“On behalf of the university, they have finally committed that the prayer space is an institutional obligation that they need to provide to students of all religions. But that is still a ways down the road,” Henry said. “They’re just, I believe, drawing up plans for what the space might look like and what construction costs might entail.”

Male Muslim students used to pray in the hallway outside the Multi-Faith prayer rooms. However, that space shrunk once construction on the new Conference and Events office began in March. Signs were posted telling students they could no longer pray there.

University administration and the SU then converted the Loft into a temporary prayer space.

Muslim Students’ Association president Maaz Shahid said he’s optimistic about the new space.

“From my perspective, I know that the University of Calgary and Jarett are trying their best. Obviously we’d prefer to have it in MacHall, but, I mean, you work with what you have,” Shahid said.

Muslim students who used to pray in the hallway have been booking the Multi-Faith Prayer Rooms to use as a prayer space during the spring and summer semesters.

The Multi-Faith Prayer Rooms and Chapel serviced 1,600 people per week in 2013. Prayer rooms were often booked up, forcing Muslim men to use the hallway.

While prayer space is abundant at the Multi-Faith Prayer Rooms in the spring and summer, Henry hopes they will still be able to continue to pray at the Loft in the fall.

“It’s going to be an advocacy priority for us for the summer. We are currently in discussions with the Wellness Centre and that’s something we’re pushing for,” Henry said. “That was a good short-term solution and we want to make sure that short-term solution is still there.”

While funding for the new prayer space has not been allocated, Henry guessed a Quality Money Proposal may fund the space.

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