MUSLIM STUDENTS DIVIDED OVER PRAYER MOTION

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By Caroline Yoshida-Butryn

Muslim students at Ryerson must continue to choose between prayer and class on Friday afternoons.

Members of the Muslim Students’ Association criticized the motion to discuss rescheduling Friday classes between 1 and 3 p.m. to accommodate Muslim student prayer at the Senate meeting last Tuesday.

The motion, put forth by third-year aerospace engineering student Salman Omer, was eventually withdrawn.

Jumu’ah, the Muslim prayer on Fridays, is the most important prayer of the week. It consists of a group prayer and sermon conducted by an imam shortly after noon.

For Muslim students with a conflict, their only course of action is to consult with professors on an individual basis each week and request time off from class for prayer. Omer’s motion would have helped Muslim’s get the time off to pray.

“I support the spirit of the motion,” said Senate member Samih Abdelgadir. “But I think that more research should have been done.” Abdelgadir, who is also a member of the MSA, said that Omer should have spoken with more students before presenting his motion at the meeting.

“This was never brought up to the MSA,” said Mohamed Malik, the group’s VP Communications. “It does not represent our point of view, and it wasn’t something we were lobbying for.” He said that a two-hour break is too long and “unnecessary.”

Omer is hoping to bring up the issue again at the next meeting in November after doing more research and consulting with the MSA.

“I should have consulted them. That was a mistake on my part,” Omer said, who hasn’t had to miss his Friday lab for prayer yet. “I believe in my motion, and now I need to see what the MSA has to say about it.”

Nora Loreto, president of the Ryerson Students’ Union, helped Omer draft the motion and was shocked at the negative response it received at the meeting.

“We acted on behalf of faculty and student concern and [Omer] was embarrassed and shot down by his fellow students,” she said. “It really ripped apart the student solidarity.”

Senate member Rebecca Rose supported the motion.

“This is something Muslim students have been requesting for quite some time already,” she said. “The current policy isn’t working and I don’t see any harm in looking at it and discussing solutions.”

Rose said the motion was attacked because of Loreto’s involvement in its composition.

“I think the infighting in the RSU has spilled into the Senate,” Rose said. “I believe it’s a personal beef against Nora.”

But Abdelgadir denies this.

“Why would I do that?” he said. “If it’s something that supports Muslims, I will stand with it 100 per cent, it’s just that it should have been done the right way.”

Loreto said “petty personal politics” were at play.

“I’m not sure what my involvement’s going to be,” she said about the future of the motion.

“But I’m not going to allow this petty infighting bring down everything that I try to do.”

Vice-provost students Dr. Zouheir Fawaz said that Ryerson’s current policy adequately addresses this issue already. But nonetheless he has contacted Omer, Rose and Whitfield for a meeting within the next few weeks to discuss the next steps and future of this motion. “We don’t want people to leave their religion at their doorsteps when they come to Ryerson,” he said.

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