International Muslim students, predominantly from Saudi Arabia, have asked universities in Melbourne to change class times so they can attend congregational prayers. They also want a female-only area for Muslim students to eat and relax.
But at least one institution has rejected their demands, arguing that the university is secular and it does not want to set a precedent for requests granted in the name of religious beliefs.
La Trobe University International chief officer John Molony said several students had approached the Bundoora institution about rearranging class times to fit in with daily prayers.
Mr Molony said the university was attempting to "meet the needs" of an increasing number of Muslim international students, including doubling the size of the prayer room on campus.
La Trobe University International College director Martin Van Run said that although it was involved in discussions with the Muslim students who had made the requests, the university was not planning to change any timetables.
"That would seriously inconvenience other people at the college and it is not institutionally viable," he told The Australian. "We are a secular institution ... and we need to have a structured timetable."
Mr Van Run said that Saudi students were fully aware that the university was secular before coming to study there. "They know well in advance the class times," he said.
A spokesman for RMIT University would neither confirm nor deny reports that Muslim students had requested timetable changes.
One university source told The Australian that the requests by Muslim international students for timetable changes included a petition.
"Some of the students would prefer that lecture times were organised so it would be easy for them to attend prayers," he said. "But it wouldn't be a good precedent to set."
Monday, February 25, 2008
Separate and Very Non-Equal
Muslims want unis to fit prayer time