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Toronto College Muslims Cheer Prayer Room

Published: 11/02/2013 01:18:11 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Enjoying a welcoming atmosphere, Muslim students at Toronto's Emmanuel College are celebrating their new prayer space and ablution facility, reflecting the university's efforts to accommodate its increasing Muslim stu (more)

CAIRO - Enjoying a welcoming atmosphere, Muslim students at Toronto's Emmanuel College are celebrating their new prayer space and ablution facility, reflecting the university's efforts to accommodate its increasing Muslim students and enrich interfaith relations in and out the campus.

“It's beautiful,” Hasna Egal, a fourth-year neuroscience student, told The Varsity, university of Toronto's student newspaper, on Monday, February 11.

“The Muslim prayer space is welcoming, clean and very quiet.”

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The new prayer space and ablutions facility in Emmanuel College were officially opened on January 22.

The Canadian Jaffari Muslim Foundation, the Islamic Foundation of Toronto, the Islamic Institute of Toronto, the Muslim Chaplaincy, and the Muslim Students Association at U of T all helped cover the $25,000 cost of the prayer space

The cost of the $75,000 ablutions facility was shared by Emmanuel College and Victoria College.

“I think it's going really well — the space is very beautiful. The whole space fills up every prayer time, but what's also really cool is that you can find people studying there and using it as a hangout space,” Amjad Tarsin, U of T's first Muslim chaplain, said.

Though designed for Muslim prayers, Muslim students welcomed all other faiths to join and attend prayers.

“It's definitely inclusive and I wouldn't see why not. Students are welcome to observe prayers,” Tarsin said.

“I don't think it hurts to have a few places around campus for prayer and worship. It's what students need.”

Provided by a Christian theological school, a Muslim-only prayer space to Emmanuel College was a decision that makes sense, according to Emmanuel College principal, Mark Toulouse.

“There's a history of Emmanuel College and the Muslim community that has been standing for about four years now,” said Toulouse.

“In February 2010, we started the Muslim studies program, as well as the Canadian Muslim continuing education certificate program. We also have a master's program — the Muslim Studies track, for students interested in becoming Muslim chaplains.

The programs focusing on Islam and new spaces for Muslim students are all an expansion of Emmanuel's efforts to enrich multifaith dialogue both on and off campus.

“So, we've looked at this question of increasing Muslim studies on campus, and recognize there's a need to pay attention to the lived experience of what it means to be a person of faith as a Muslim,” Toulouse added.

Multifaith Prayers

Along with the Muslim-only prayer space, the university was planning a more inclusive multi-faith prayer space to welcome all faiths.

“We've officially confirmed the plan to make the prayer space this summer with the Robarts staff,” Toronto Students' Union vice-president, equity, Noor Baig, said.

“We haven't advertised it yet, as we didn't want students waiting too long in case of any delays. There's always a need for more prayer areas on campus. Designating a space in Robarts makes sense — it's a high traffic area in a central location.”

The push for more prayer space has been led by University of as well as the newly-formed Student Committee for Appropriate Accommodation and the Office of Student Life.

The new Multi-Faith Centre would also allow different groups to be able to use the space at the same time.

“We'll definitely be spreading the word about it through all our different channels, and there will be a launch event,” says Baig.

The idea was getting students' support already.

“It would be really convenient,” says Egal.

“Some of the other prayer areas around campus are tiny and cramped. It would be great to have a large space that's central.”

It's all part of the bigger plan for inclusivity that Toulouse highlighted.

“It's our responsibility to provide the space that will enable people to join our community and to live out what is important to them in terms of their faith,” he said.

Muslims make around 2.8 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population.

A recent survey showed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian, and that they are more educated than the general population.

Reproduced with permission from