Muslim students at McGill are still without a formal prayer space, after being evicted from the basement of Peterson Hall in 2005.
Sana Saeed, the external relations coordinator of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), explained that many Muslim students require prayer space.
“As Muslims, praying is more than an integral part of our lives. We have five obligatory prayers a day that must be done during certain times,” Saeed said.
In Saeed’s first year, she and thousands of other Muslim students had access to the basement of Peterson Hall for their daily prayers and for special events, such as the nightly iftar dinners where, each night during Ramadan, Muslim students break their fasts.
In 2005, to create room for lab and office space, the MSA was evicted from Peterson and encouraged to find their own off-campus space, explained Nafay Al-Alam Choudhury, former president of the MSA.
“We were all full-time students, and the administration wanted us to try and fundraise $2-million to create our own community centre,” Choudhury said.
He insisted that the Muslim community doesn’t need a facility as complex or sophisticated as Hillel House or the Newman Centre, which are off-campus facilities for Jewish and Catholic students, respectively.
“We really just wanted a room, adequately sized, where we could pray. We didn’t want to fundraise for such an elaborate house,” Choudhury said.
After negotiations broke down with the administration, Muslim students were forced to pray in any space they could find for a prolonged period of time, such as in empty classrooms, stairwells, and even outdoors. After failed attempts to reach some sort of agreement with the University, the MSA filed a human rights complaint through the Canadian Council on American Islamic Relations. (MORE)