Islamic students' right to pray

One hundred students and staff at RMIT attended an information session on October 14 organised by the Islamic Students Society (ISS).

Muslim students at RMIT have been campaigning for eight months to hold the university administration to its promise to provide a dedicated prayer facility for Muslims on campus. A university survey found that the previously existing facility was inadequate.

Last year, a new facility was built with the assistance of Muslim architects. It included facilities for washing feet in preparation for prayers, separate male and female prayer rooms, and Arabic words and religious symbols. The old Muslim prayer facility was closed down to make space for the new building.

At the start of this year, however, without consulting the ISS, the university turned the new facility into a (second) campus multi-faith centre.

International advertisements for students give the impression that a dedicated Muslim prayer facility exists. In fact, Muslim students can access the rooms only between 11.30am and 5.30pm, and do not have exclusive use of the rooms at other times.

ISS vice-president Mohamed Elrafihi explained to the meeting that Muslims pray five times a day, between 5am and 12am, yet during daylight savings the facility can only be used for midday prayers. As part of their campaign, Muslim students are boycotting the new multi-faith centre.

The campaign is supported by all religious organisations on campus, the RMIT student union and the National Tertiary Education Union. The ISS has collected more than 3500 signatures on a petition calling for a dedicated prayer facility and is using the Friday prayers, which are attended by hundreds of students, to inform people about the university's hypocritical decision.