Northern Ireland Muslims students lobby for prayer room at University

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SHAFAQNA - Muslims at Queen’s University have said they have to pray in corridors and other public areas because it will not provide multi-faith prayer rooms.

The students said dedicated prayer or “quiet rooms” are available in many other universities and public buildings, including airports and hospitals.

They said they have no alternative but to say their prayers in corridors, libraries, corners or wherever they can find a secluded spot within QUB.

QUB said it is reviewing its amenities.

Understanding

Muslim student Nadira Nazir, who is from Malaysia, said: “If we had a room to ourselves it would be easier for us females, to be honest.

“We have to rush between classes to find any [empty classrooms] available and just go in and do our prayers.

“Sometimes you get students already coming into the class and they see us praying. I am glad for their understanding as they have to wait for us to finish [before] they start their lecture, because we are literally using their class.”

Approximately 1,200 international students from over 80 countries currently study at QUB and more than 400 are thought to be from the Islamic faith.

Encouraging more students from abroad to study at QUB is a major priority for the university.

No extra cost

Ahmed Amer from the QUB Muslim society said that was more of a reason for the university to provide prayer or “quiet” rooms.

“These rooms are not something new that we have invented,” he said.

“These facilities are provided by all universities across England, pretty much, and in the Republic of Ireland. The Ulster University has them.”

Mr Amer said the provision of QUB prayer rooms “would be a sign that the university can accommodate people from all different backgrounds and different religions”.

“There is no extra cost involved in providing them,” he added.

QUB Muslim chaplain Dr Ashraf Ahmed said the prayer room or rooms could be used by all denominations.

“It would be great if we could have a multi-faith prayer room. All would be welcome from all backgrounds and all faiths,” he said.

Quiet room

The Belfast Islamic Centre has two venues in south Belfast where Muslims pray. One is located on Rugby Road, the other at Wellington Park, but neither are connected to QUB.

QUB declined Shafaqna’s interview request, but in a statement, a spokesperson said: “A key priority in the Vision 2020 strategy for Queen’s University, Belfast, is to increase the number of international students studying at the university.

“Accordingly, the university is currently reviewing all amenities in the context of its charter and statutes to ensure that staff and students from all backgrounds have access to appropriate facilities.”

It said a “quiet room” has been created at the Queens Elms halls of residence.

While this was not a dedicated multi-faith or prayer room, it said students could use it for the purpose of prayer.

However, one Muslim student said the room in question was inappropriate, and pointed out that Queens Elms is further from the main university campus than either of the two south Belfast mosques.

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