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SHEPHERD: Mount Royal University spends $115,000 on Muslim foot-washing stations
SHEPHERD: Mount Royal University spends $115,000 on Muslim foot-washing stations
Canadian News

SHEPHERD: Mount Royal University spends $115,000 on Muslim foot-washing stations 

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Mount Royal University (MRU) in Calgary, Alberta recently announced the opening of a new facility on campus: two ablution stations for Muslim students to perform “wudu”, a pre-prayer cleansing ritual.

A handful of Canadian universities already have ablution stations available, and little fanfare was involved in their installation.

However, MRU held an entire event to “celebrate” the new washing stations, and gushed about how Muslim students will no longer have to feel “awkward and uncomfortable” as they get water on the floor while washing their feet in hand sinks.

The cost of installing the ablution stations was $115,000.

MRU’s human rights advisor with the Office of Campus Equity and Meaningful Inclusion, Khaula Bhutta, stated that the university has “a duty to provide these facilities under Alberta’s Human Rights Act.”

A duty? It is unclear how Bhutta came to the conclusion that universities in Alberta are required to use their funding to build nonessential facilities for one particular religious group. Under the section “Discrimination re goods, services, accommodation, facilities”, Alberta’s Human Rights Act reads

No person shall

(a) deny to any person or class of persons any goods, services, accommodation or facilities that are customarily available to the public, or

(b) discriminate against any person or class of persons with respect to any goods, services, accommodation or facilities that are customarily available to the public,

because of the race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, gender identity, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation of that person or class of persons or of any other person or class of persons.

Seeing as ablution stations are not a facility “customarily available to the public”, the argument that universities are compelled to build ablution stations because of the Human Rights Act should not apply.

However, other universities have made the same case: in 2015, the University of Ottawa Muslim Students Association won “a small victory in a fight to acquire more religious space on campus” after the University of Ottawa agreed to build ablution stations.

The Student Federation president at the time stated that they had been pressuring the university to build these stations for years, and that “we’ll have to recognize that the University of Ottawa is definitely lacking and not respecting the Ontario Human Rights Code when it comes to religious accommodations.”

The Ontario Human Rights Code, in the section “Freedom from Discrimination”, states:

Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability.

Again, it is quite a stretch to say that it is actively discriminatory if Ontarian universities do not direct their money towards nonessential facilities for one particular religious group.

Non-Muslim Canadians who see themselves as tolerant individuals may have a mixed reaction upon hearing about these campus ablution stations: they may feel initially perplexed, but figure that building the ablution stations doesn’t really hurt anybody.

However, Khaula Bhutta’s assertion that Albertan universities are required by human rights law to provide students with Islamic facilities undermines Canadian identity.

Pinning down Canadian identity has always proven to be elusive, but we can probably at least agree on what Canadian identity is not: Islamic. And while I don’t want to be presumptuous, I reckon that most Muslim students living in Canada understand that our universities will not offer the same facilities that they would receive in an Islamic country, and figured they would work around that.

MRU President David Docherty enthused that the ablution stations “are more than physical spaces… With these spaces, we are saying — loud and clear — you belong here.” Khaula Bhutta stated the installation of the stations is “an opportunity to showcase to the community, to different groups, that we are trying our best to create spaces where people feel safe, respected and where barriers are removed.”

Docherty and Bhutta are of course raving about the stations, as they can justify their jobs or perhaps a pay raise by acting as if a huge milestone has been reached and barriers have been broken down.

On the contrary, building these ablution stations is a concession. They send the message that people from other cultures do not have to adapt to the Canadian way of life – rather, our institutions will spend student tuition dollars and taxpayer money to ensure that people from other cultures do not have to adapt to Canadian culture.

Don’t get me wrong: I do not fault Muslim students for taking advantage of these ablution stations. The people who are undermining Canadian culture, in this situation, are the university administration bureaucrats that make a living by spending other peoples’ money to virtue signal.

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