Muslims Stuck Between Class and Prayer

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By Adrian Morrow

Associate News Editor

Salman Omer doesn’t want to choose between his religion and his schooling.

The international aerospace engineering student hasn’t missed a class yet but is worried he might have to skip Friday prayers in order to go to a lab class.

“You don’t want to fall behind. There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of competition. There’s peer pressure and financial pressure [to be in class],” he said.

To solve the problem. he’s bringing a motion to Ryerson’s Senate, asking the school to find a way to accommodate Muslim students who don’t want to pick between praying and attending class.

“This is a multicultural campus, so we should accommodate religious observance,” he said. “Last week one of my friends missed a prayer because he had a class.”

Friday prayer, or Jumu’ah, is the most important prayer of the week, and involves a sermon and group prayer led by an imam. It is performed shortly after noon.

Nora Loreto, President of the Ryerson Students’ Union, helped Omer draft the motion.

“It’s a perennial problem,” she said. “This is a way we can be proactive and create some positive change.”

She said there are different options that the university could pursue to accommodate Jumu’ah prayers. The university could block off two hours on Friday for everyone, or they could allow Muslim students to take alternate sections of the class.

The University of Toronto accommodates the prayers, she said, so Ryerson can do it too.

“There is a policy the senate has already adopted that provides all students with the opportunity to have an absence from the university for religious reasons,” Ryerson President Sheldon Levy said.

As for alternate classes, Levy said the Senate would consider it when they begin their review at the next meeting. He said this was the first time he had heard of this problem since he took office.

The school has ways of accommodating most religious observances because they’re one-off events, but not for weekly observances such as this one.

Toby Whitfield, a second-year business management student and senate member, supports Omer’s motion.

“Some of my friends and colleagues have been facing this, so it’s great that we can bring this forward,” he said last Friday.

Salman Mangla, vice-president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Students’ Association, said his professors are usually accommodating of his religious observances, but he agreed with Omer’s motion.

“Personally, I do see the benefit of this if there’s a test. But if it’s just a lecture, you can take 15 or 20 minutes to go pray,” he said.

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