By Jordan Heath-Rawlings
For a few elated hours last Thursday afternoon, Ryerson’s Muslim students thought they had finally found a suitable place to pray on Fridays.
After two weeks of praying at an overcrowded Oakham House, a previous booking at the venue forced Ryerson’s Muslim Student Association (RMSA) to again attempt to deal with Ryerson administration in an effort to find prayer space.
Once again they were denied.
“It was the first time I really lost my cool,” said RMSA president Fouzan Khan.
Until last Thursday night, RMSA thought they were holding last week’s Friday prayers in room A250, the large, empty carpeted room in Jorgenson Hall where the Academic Council meets every month.
“They (Ryerson’s administration) said this space was one of the options. They said this is a big room that is available,” Khan said.
Khan said that RMSA was told the space was available early Tuesday. Sarah Barry, RyeSAC’s internal co-ordinator, put in a request for use of the room. Because A250 is a private space — one that has been used before by RyeSAC and other student groups — and not a public space — where RMSA have been told they cannot conduct prayers — RyeSAC assumed the booking had been made. Khan then sent out an e-mail to all RMSA members letting them know where their nomadic Friday prayer services would be held. All that took place, Khan recalled, between 2 and 3 p.m.
Three hours later, Barry received a call from Marion Creery, who is direct of student services at Ryerson and the final person to sign off on the request to book space for prayer.
“She told us that (prayer) is not an appropriate use of that facility,” Barry said. “Once that happens, the whole thing comes to a halt.”
“It’s ridiculous,” said Khan. “It seems now that even if the room is available, they don’t want to give it to us.”
The e-mail to RMSA members however, had already been sent. So on Friday at 1:30 p.m., RMSA set up prayer in the hall outside A250. The doors to the space they had requested remained locked, and a janitor vacuumed the empty room.
RMSA has repeatedly booked prayer space, only to be denied by the department of student services. They have attempted to hold prayers in the lower gym for the past year-and-a-half, in various public spaces in Jorgenson Hall, and have asked the university to make a space available or expand the multifaith centre to accommodate the estimated 200-300 students who need to pray every Friday. Each time they say, they have been told the space they seek is inappropriate for prayer.
“They (the administration), make us change the venue every Friday,” said Sajjad Wasti, next year’s RyeSAC v.p. finance and a member of RMSA. “It’s like a game they’re playing.”
Khan said RMSA considered their options at a meeting after Friday prayers and that the plan is to launch “a broader campaign that focuses on the issues and raises awareness among all students, not just Muslims.”
“Maybe they’re threatened by us, I don’t know. But I really don’t know what to make of it,” said Sajjad Wasti, a RMSA member. “They don’t offer any explanations.”
Marion Creery has refused to comment to The Eyeopener about this issue.