In an effort to be more inclusive, Mount Royal University has recently built washing stations for Muslim faculty and students to use before they participate in daily worship. Islamic practitioners are required to wash themselves in a very specific process in order to enter a state of purity before they pray.
Assad Chaudhary, president of the Muslim Students’ Association on campus, explains that these stations (also known as ablution stations) are important in helping Muslim students better balance their faith with demanding university schedules. The Islamic faith requires followers to pray five times daily, at specific times in the day.
“We as Muslims now have a [better] way of doing our ritual to complete our prayer. We can also pray more on campus as well, ” says Chaudhary.
Chaudhary also says that one reason it is hard for students to remain in their state of purity following the cleansing is that in the Islamic religion, bodily functions such as going to the bathroom take them out of that pure state.
Chaudhary says that, “it’s an easier, more accessible way to actually follow the ritual of washing oneself before prayer.”
The stations are located across from MRU’s meditation room, where Muslims and members of other religions participate in prayer. There is one station each for males and females.
Despite the importance of the ablution stations to Muslim members of the MRU community, the stations have been criticized on websites such as reddit, and the right-leaning site The Post Millennial. The criticism is particularly focused on the $115,000 cost of the installation.
However as Khuala Bhutta, a human rights advisor for MRU’s Office of Campus Equity and Meaningful Inclusion, points out, this decision is not without precedent. In fact, many other Canadian and international universities have already installed similar setups. She also says that these stations will be used by Muslims on campus for the foreseeable future.
“This is something that is built for now and that is going to benefit the future [Muslim] population that is going to come into Mount Royal.”
While there are currently around 400 Muslim students at Mount Royal, Bhutta expects that number will greatly increase.
Chaudhary says that this is an important step by MRU in building a stronger relationship with its Islamic community.
“Just to give them a certain sense of of accommodation for their own religious beliefs, I think that’s very necessary just for Mount Royal to accept that there are Muslims on campus,” says Chaudhary.
“And [it] gives them a sense of dignity,” he says.