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Lack of multi-faith prayer space still an issue

By Jake Scott

It took nine years for the Ryerson Muslim Students’ Association (RMSA) to get a temporary multi-faith prayer space in the Ted Rogers School of Management (TRSM) and it’s still only temporary.

There are currently two permanent, multi-faith prayer spaces at Ryerson, on the Student Campus Centre’s (SCC) third floor and at 111 Gerrard Street East. The latter building is not accessible. Despite rooms created by opening the Student Learning Centre (SLC), space is still scarce partly due to the rising number of student groups. These prayer spaces are student-run with minimal interference from administration.

“We’re here to support our students, but unfortunately the space is very limited on campus and this year the request from the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) is making sure we get more student group space,” said Ryerson interim president Mohamed Lachemi.

This year alone, 14 student groups were ratified through the RSU — an all-time high -— meaning the race for space only got tighter.

“We are now 39,100 students on campus that are in undergraduate programs. We only have one accessible prayer space on campus, which is located in the SCC,” said Mariam Nouser, vice president external affairs for the Ryerson Muslim Students’ Association (RMSA) and incoming member of the Board of Governors.

It’s an issue affecting Ryerson’s Muslim population, as the RMSA identifies TRSM as the most inconvenient place for members to access multi-faith space.

“Students, especially in Ted Rogers School of Management … it’s very hard for them to find prayer space near their classes, thus they have to pray in halls or stairwells or places that are really not effective,” said Nouser.

Thus the rotating, temporary multi-faith space was created through the RMSA. It operates two hours daily during peak prayer times with its location always in flux.

“TRS looks for rooms that are available at that time and I think they give them a week’s notice … that [information] gets emailed to [MSA members] to communicate to their membership and that is also updated on those [kiosks],” said current Ryerson Students’ Union president Andrea Bartlett.

Other religion-based student groups like the Ryerson Catholic Students’ Association (RCSA) use the space only occasionally as they have ample space on or around campus.

“In terms of when we need time for prayer we have designated space. There’s also a lot of churches downtown and in our area,” said Cesar Membreno, vice president communications for RCSA.

As well, prayer practices for other religions are a little less rigorous than the Muslim faith.

“I feel like most Jewish students who make prayer part of their day do it in the hall or a corner,” said  Naomi Shore, Jewish Learning Coordinator for Hillel at Ryerson.

Jews aren’t required to prostrate themselves during prayer, making impromptu prayer in a stairwell or hallway a little more palatable.

These worship and meditation spaces are for all. Non-religious students can go meditate, but many students using these safe spaces are Muslim, especially when faced with rampant Islamophobia in the city.

The spaces are on 111 Gerrard Street East’s third floor, room 319 of the SCC and TRSM.

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