New multi-faith room at MSVU

Non-Christian students now have their own room for religious practices.

The multi-faith room at MSVU. Photo: Jared Hochman

Muslim students at Mount Saint Vincent University make their way at set times each day to a room on the fourth floor of Seton Hall. There, they take off their shoes, kneel and pray.

The small room, surrounded by classrooms and offices, is called the multi-faith room. It's been available since last semester. Students of all faiths are encouraged to use the room to meditate or pray.

Jeremy Neilson, president of MSVU's student union, says that prior to the room, "a lot of our Muslim students would pray in the basement of the library, in the middle of the stacks or in the bathrooms."

The university's Muslim students' association had been asking for space for three years but nothing had been done, due to lack of available space.

"What really kind of ignited it, is a student came to talk to me. He was upset because he had been in the washroom praying and he couldn't say for sure if students in there had said anything, but they were snickering. He wasn't sure if they were laughing at him but he felt very uncomfortable. That was the end of it and we put a serious push on it," added Neilson.

After consulting with Dalhousie's Multifaith Centre, the university liberated a room, had it carpeted and invited all students to use it.

Predominantly Muslim

A curtain encloses half the room, creating a secluded space where women can pray. A bookshelf is filled with copies of the Qur'an and other books on Islam. A small notice board features a prayer schedule and a form to sign up for the Muslim students' association newsletter.

"Our original intention for the room was a multi-faith space/room. It has evolved into a Muslim prayer room. There are lot of initiatives going on. Faculty administration has asked me to re-look at the room to try and make it more multi-faith, which is a challenge on its own," said Neilson.

Fourth-year business student Lamees is Muslim and uses the room to pray. She says the multi-faith room "is a really good idea."

"In the past, we talked to the dean's office, the students' union and they told us they didn't have an available room. They asked us to pray in the church."

Lamees is quick to clarify that "the room was given to the students' union, and then it was given to us. It wasn't actually for us directly." She only knows of two non-Muslim people who use the room to meditate.

Multi-faith spaces in N.S. universities

Brad Close, a Christian Reformed pastor who works part-time at Dalhousie's Multifaith Centre, says in the last two or three years, students have been asking for more prayer rooms at Dal. There used to be one and now there are three. The rooms are situated in various building on campus.

The centre offers a pamphlet which lists all places of worship in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The prayer rooms and the centre are also used by the various religious students' associations for social activities, such as movie nights.

Only Dalhousie and MSVU offer multi-faith rooms to students. All other universities encourage students to use the chapel on campus. NSCAD and NSCC do not offer faith services or spaces.

 

Comments on this story are now closed

I am a student of Saint Mary's University and we have a multi faith room since very long time ago. Do your research will!

Posted by Mohammed Hasan | Feb 14, 2022

I would just like to correct the mistake in the article. I am the president of the MSVU Muslim Student Association and I am a 4th year student here at the Mount and can honestly say with full confidence that no one has every prayed in the bathroom before. This is against our religion and I refuse to believe that any Muslim would disrespect themselves or there religion in this way. I do not know where this information came from but I believe it was a mistake. As Muslim we must perform ritual ablution in the bathroom which is different from prayer and I just wanted to clear this up. Thank you very much Sultan Talib

Posted by Sultan Talib Malik Shahbazz | Mar 12, 2021

The story of the guy praying in the washroom is NOT true and it has been going around for a while. Muslims Students at MSVU never prayed in the washrooms. This must have been a rumor. Please correct this article!

Posted by Lamees Hasan | Mar 12, 2021