Muslim students at Australia’s prestigious Group-8 university Monash have offered Namaz on the lawn as a mark of protest.
The students put up protest signs at Monash University that said:
“Monash is not providing adequate prayer space on campus for Muslims. So we are praying outside. Please walk around us.”
Vice President of the MUIS Fatima Ramtoola told ABC Radio Melbourne that there is only enough room for eight men and eight women to pray in the current space. She added
“It’s way too small for the number of people who have to use it… every single other university in Melbourne has adequate Muslim prayer space and we don’t understand why Monash University is not providing this for our Muslim students on campus.”
Prof. Sharon Pickering, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Education and Senior Vice-President at Monash, told the media that the university is meeting with students to try to reach a solution. She said:
“I understand it has taken too long, we want to work with them in remedying that and I really do hope that we’re able to get to an outcome sooner rather than later.”
Muslim students claim that they have been lobbying for a more enormous prayer hall dedicated to offering Namaz since 2018. Protesting students were updated last month that Monash is a “multi-faith” university and any new communal space built there would be made available to all staff and students.
According to Monash University Islamic Society (MUIS) survey, this inadequate prayer space is used almost 2000 times a week by 233 students.
However, Ramtoola told the Age that male and female students wanted to pray together and the concept of a multi-faith communal room was impractical.
“A multi-faith prayer room is going to be very difficult to manage. Different faiths have different requirements, and putting all these faiths in a room together and expecting us to be able to regulate it … we’re just really confused about how we would be expected to do that.”
Monash University student union president Ishka de Silva said that Monash University’s insistence that all new spaces must be “multi-faith” was confusing and frustrating for Muslim students.
The Religious Centre according to the Monash University website is a multi-faith centre suitable for spiritual services, weddings, christenings, funerals, memorials, private prayer and seminars.
It has a circular design with stained glass windows, but no overt religious imagery. The main chapel includes a large, removable cross. The venue features the main chapel which seats around 400 people, a smaller chapel that can seat 40 people and several smaller meeting rooms.