Muslim students at Monash University perform prayers outside in protest

A house on a residential street near the university has also been converted into a mosque, although an Islamic Society spokesman said it was far from campus and rarely used.

An at-work health and safety report completed in 2018 found the small prayer rooms to be poorly maintained, full of tripping hazards and poorly accessible for the disabled.

Monash University student union president Ishka de Silva accused the university of breaking an agreement this year to provide better facilities.

“Muslim students on campus just got so frustrated,” she said. “They’ve worked really hard for five years to have a collaborative relationship with the university and explain what the issues are, and yet we’re back to square one.”

De Silva said students were told in early June that two rooms were available in the Clayton campus’s Krongold Center, only to be told days later the rooms were needed as classrooms.

“Unfortunately, the Krongold Center is required for education, and at this time, and is not available for community purposes,” wrote Vladimir Prpich, director of the Monash campus community.

“The university is multi-religious and therefore new common areas will be made available to all staff and students, in line with this vision.”

De Silva said the university’s insistence that all new spaces should be multi-religious was confusing.

“The largest faith space on campus is a chapel. It has pews, a large cross, it cannot be used by any other faith in any way,” she said.

Monash’s deputy vice chancellor, Professor Sharon Pickering, said the university understood the importance of prayer rooms for its Muslim students and wanted all students to feel supported.

“We have met with members of the Monash Islamic Society to discuss options for a suitable prayer room on our Clayton campus to better meet the needs of our students,” she said.

Loading

“We met again with students a week ago and today, and we are working to identify the most appropriate facility to ensure that the needs of these students can be met in a sustainable way.”

Fatima Ramtoola, vice president of the Islamic Association, said men and women wanted to pray together but were separated in the prayer rooms.

She said the concept of a multi-faith community space was impractical.

“A multi-faith prayer space will be very difficult to manage,” she said. “Different religions have different requirements, and if we put all these religions together in a room and expect that we can regulate it… we’re just really confused about how we’re supposed to do that.”

Captivating answers to mind-boggling questions delivered to your inbox every week. Sign up here to receive our new Explainer newsletter.

Leave a Comment