Ramadan should be issue-free for all concerned

By Rachel Betts-Wilmot

The issue of space for prayer during Ramadan is one everyone remembers from last year. Due to a “miscommunication” between the University of Calgary Students’ Union and the Muslim Students’ Association, the MSA was left owing nearly $3,000. Fortunately, the mayhem and discord between the two organizations last year has been avoided this year by lots of planning.

“There was just really bad communication last year,” said SU Vice-President of Operations and Finance Greg Clayton. “It was left to the last minute… [The SU and the MSA] started talking about it at the end of September and the beginning of October and there was a miscommunication–as there usually is–and that led to what we saw happen…”

Last year, conflict arose when the SU charged the MSA for the rooms that had been booked to facilitate prayer during Ramadan for the Muslim students.

“The SU maybe didn’t realize that this is an urgent need for Muslim students to perform their prayers every single night during the month of Ramadan,” said Imam Said Rageah of the Multi-Faith Chaplain’s Centre.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar–which started this year on Oct. 16–during which Muslims do not drink, eat, smoke or have sex from sunrise to sunset. Prayers are much more intense, and each day is capped off with a meal. The particular nature of worship necessary during Ramadan and pre-existing restrictions added to the problems and made the early arrangements necessary.

“They can’t bring food to a public event and share it with everyone: it’s against health and safety regulations,” said Clayton. “As well as the washrooms: we didn’t want the same washrooms being used for cleansing. So we had to work around that.”

The other obstacle to be overcome was a lack of the Multi-Faith prayer space, which is still not ready.

“We’re looking at starting to build the Multi Faith right away, but it’s not done,” said Clayton. “In lieu of that, the Students’ Union made available the Shirley Anastasia [Robertson Lounge] Monday through Thursday for Ramadan prayers.”

The rest of the accommodations have been made in the typical fashion. The MSA will use the free bookings it receives as a club, as well as booking conference rooms for eating at the end of the daily fast.

Another hurdle to be conquered was the appearance of special treatment–whether good or bad–towards the MSA.

“The approach we took is that it’s not a club event, it’s students praying and the MSA is the voice for the majority of Muslims on campus, but there are a lot of Muslims that aren’t a part of MSA,” said Clayton. “What we’ve done is separate it so that just the prayers in Shirley Anastasia are public events; they’re open to anyone. We don’t think of them like club events, they’re religious, or student events.”

“This year there is no issue, no problem, everything is taken care of and I think they have learned a lesson from last year,” agreed Imam Said Rageah. “They will not have any problems… hopefully.”

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