Muslim University of B.C. student Hesham Alsalaman hopes the days of cleansing his feet in the small washroom hand basin near the university’s prayer room are numbered.
“As you can see, washing your feet is very difficult,” said Alsalaman, president of the Muslim Students Association of UBC.
Alsalaman and other Muslim students use a prayer room in UBC’s Brock Hall up to five times a day.
Before each prayer session they must perform an ablution ceremony in which they wash their hands, lower arms, face and feet.
“Washing your feet in a high sink you end up splashing water around,” said Alsalaman, an engineering student from Saudi Arabia. “That can create a hazard and we’ve had complaints.”
As a result, the students’ association and the university plan to install footbaths in the men’s and women’s washrooms on the second floor of Brock Hall.
“It’s no different from upgrading washrooms to accommodate transgender students or students with disabilities,” said UBC spokeswoman Janet Mee.
The plans stemmed from a consultation last December in which UBC asked students how to improve washroom facilities.
“We approached [the Muslim students association] to ask them what their ablution needs were,” Mee said. “We included that in a project that we were working on around accessible, gender-inclusive family friendly washrooms.”
Alsalaman said his association and the university have a very good relationship that includes the creation of the prayer room and the installation of a lock to the room after a dark brown patch was discovered on the floor of the room late last year.
“The footbath installation will not be difficult and not cost very much,” Alsalaman said. “We are asking that it only be in the two washrooms near the prayer room. It’s not that big of a deal and is very important to us. We feel more welcome.”
Simon Fraser University has footbaths installed in some washrooms, as do some universities in the United States and Quebec.