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‘We Pray with Fear’: Western Univ Students Pray in Stairwell

With prayer room that accommodates only 35 people, about 2000 students at Western University usually find themselves forced to find a makeshift place to perform their daily prayer.

Abdullah Al Jarad, a fourth-year software engineering student, is one of many students left praying in whatever space is available on campus, regardless of its suitability for religious practice.

Five times a day, Al Jarad, vice-president of Wester Universities Muslim Student Associatgion, finds himself forced on a daily basis to take a journey to the fourth floor of the Amit Chakma Engineering Building to pray on a dusty stairwell.

📚 Read Also: Cambridge Public Schools Create Spaces for Prayer

“The first thing, from what I feel, is unsafe,” said Al Jarad, Western Gazette reported.

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“The place where we pray is unmonitored and unsupervised. There’s no cameras. You’re just on your own in that dark space. And you’re praying.”

Western currently has one designated Muslim prayer room in the basement of the University Community Centre and an interfaith prayer space in Middlesex College. For years, Muslim students have been saying this is not enough.

“Muslim students across any faculty … should be able to have prayer space accessible to them in their own building,” said Maryam Oloriegbe, the vice-president of public relations for the MSA and fourth-year medical sciences student.

“Prayer is a non-negotiable thing. It’s not something you can just put off.”


Mohamed El Dogdog, a second-year software engineering student, said the walk from the engineering building to the closest prayer room, in the UCC, is “a very, very far trip to go to and then you have to come back to classes. If you have a class back to back there’s really no space to catch the prayer.”

Fear of Islamophobic attacks is another factor affecting Muslim students.

“It puts us as an open target for anyone with any Islamophobic thoughts,” said Al Jarad, who referenced the deadly attack on the Afazaal family in London in June 2021.

“Number two, it’s hazardous in terms of how high it is, and the risks that would come with this, the health and safety of people. And third one, it’s an inaccessible praying area.

“When we pray in such staircases, we pray with fear. You never know when you could be the next target.”

Muslims pray five times a day, with each prayer made up of a series of postures and movements, each set of which is called a rak‘ah.

The five prayer times are divided all through the day which starts with Fajr prayer at dawn.