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Food vs. faith: An unhealthy fight

By Aaron Sands

A border war erupted at Ryerson last week, pitting the Muslim students associations against the School of Nutrition.

The battle started when the Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association set up a display in the second floor walkway, connecting Jorgenson Hall and West Kerr Hall.

Throughout the week, students running the display were approached by several nutrition students, who complained that the group was not supposed to be there. Security was called and the AMSA provided the required permission slips from the school. The complaints, however, persisted throughout the week, with Nutrition Chair Patricia Jensen demanding the group be kicked out of the hall.

The Muslim group ended up shifting their display several times each day to avoid confrontation.

But the non-stop harassment has left AMSA member Barkaat Ahmad bewildered.

“I am really confused and disappointed,” he said. “Why did these nutrition people have such a problem with us being there? We showed them the proper permission from Ryerson but they still wouldn’t give up.”

Ahmad filed a complaint against the School of Nutrition with Ryerson Harassment Services on Monday. “I really think this was racially motivated,” Ahmad said. “Groups set up in that area all the time and I don’t think there’s been any problems like this.”

Student Groups Coordinator Leatrice Spevack said in her 15 years at Ryerson, there has never been a complaint about a student group display.

“It’s certainly difficult to think it wasn’t racism just because other groups have been there throughout the years,” Spevack said. “I’m just livid about this. They’re one of the loveliest, most gentle student groups I’ve had, which makes this all the more outrageous.”

When approached for comment about the harassment complaint being filed, Nutrition Chair Jensen replied, “They can file a harassment complaint all they want, I don’t really care. There’s nothing more to say about this thing.”

Jensen sent letters complaining about the AMSA to RyeSAC and Occupational Health and Safety.

“She even went so far as to complain in the letter that they were blocking the fire route,” Spevack said about Jensen.

“Believe me, if there was a fire, I’d want to run out of here too,” added Ahmad.

Spevack said Jensen, “should be hung out to dry. I recommend that she issue a letter of apology to the Muslim students. It just shows there are very narrow-minded people in the university environment as well.”

Mansoor Malik, another member of AMSA, was at the display on Monday when a nutrition student with fluorescent pink hair causes repeated kerfuffles, shouting at security, the Muslims and anyone else who would listen throughout the day.

“The way she was talking was very strange,” Malik said. “Why would someone be that mad about a simple stall? She seemed really offended that we were there.”

Another nutrition student was salted about the display, threatening she’d be back to kick them out.

“I feel very bad right now,” Malik said. “Here we are displaying our message of peace, religion and good thinking and people think we’re just trying to cause trouble.”

Despite the problems, Ahmad said the group plans to set up shop in the same place next year.

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