By Samreen Maqsood
Muslim students at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) say they want to see more multi-faith rooms around campus to pray.
Currently, students have access to the multi-faith prayer room on the third floor of the Student Campus Centre (SCC).
However, many Muslim students say having a single prayer room on campus isn’t ideal, especially when their classes may be far from the SCC, like in the Ted Rogers School of Management (TRSM) building.
“It would be nice to have a prayer room available somewhere nearby the TRSM because our building is so off-campus,” said Iram Cheema, a fourth-year business technology management student at TMU.
“If I’m being honest, I don’t even know exactly where [the prayer room] is,” she added. “I feel like it’s very hidden, at least for us business students.”
Yousuf Ahmed, a fifth-year marketing student, agreed with Cheema, saying that having different multi-faith rooms on campus would be more convenient for students of multiple religions.
Abdullah Patel, the vice president of marketing at the Muslim Students Association (MSA) and a fourth-year marketing student, said the multi-faith room is one of the most “heavily-utilized resources” that students have on campus.
Before he knew about the multi-faith room, Patel said he used to pray in various halls and alleyways before learning there was a prayer room available on campus.
“As soon as I found out there was a prayer room, it really made my life easier,” he said. Patel said that 100 to 150 Muslim students regularly use the prayer room.
During the pandemic, the multi-faith room was closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, hindering students’ abilities to observe their prayers in a safe and clean space. Patel said the room’s closure had created a problem for students who lived in residence at the time.
“Students would have to resort to using an empty hallway or stairwell, somewhere that isn’t as clean or private,” he said.
After returning to in-person classes in March 2022, Ahmed Taasif, a third-year computer engineering student, said he often uses the multi-faith room on campus. “I would go pray there for four days [a week],” he said.
The lack of space for a multi-faith room has been an issue at TMU for a while. Previously, there was a second multi-faith room located at 111 Gerrard Street on campus.
However, that space is currently being redeveloped for academic use, according to TMU’s website. The website states that construction will begin in 2022 and “could serve as the new home of the Lincoln Alexander School of Law.”
In 2016, The Eyeopener reported that there was a need for more than two spaces. Six years later, the school is back to one space. When asked about the second space on Gerrard Street, the university said in an emailed statement that they were “aware of a multi-faith room available on the third floor of Oakham House.”
Last school year, there were 36,465 full-time undergraduate students at TMU, according to the school’s website. McMaster University’s website shows that the school has comparable enrolment, with 31,533 undergraduate students as of 2021, but has six spaces available for “religious, secular and spiritual practices on campus.”
As of the fall 2022 semester, the MSA is holding in-person Friday prayers now that COVID-19 restrictions have lifted. According to Patel, the Friday prayers may be held at different locations around campus, depending on availability and spacing. He also said the MSA has reached out to different offices on campus to secure one location for the year.
Cheema suggested there should be a prayer room in the Sheldon & Tracy Levy Student Learning Centre, saying it can be difficult to locate the SCC when time is limited between classes.
She added that she had attended Friday prayers “a few times,” but said that students shouldn’t feel like they have to stop practicing because of a busy class schedule.
“It’s important to have somewhere available where you can go and observe your faith, especially with a university that has students coming from all different religions,” said Cheema. “It’s really important to allow students to continue to practice that all while being in school.”