By Aymen Sherwani, September 3 2021—
When I was a first-year student, one of my biggest worries was whether my identity as a Muslim woman would be accommodated on campus — whether it be regarding my dietary restrictions, access to prayer rooms and support groups where I meet other Muslim academics.
Fortunately, I had little to worry about as the University of Calgary and Students’ Union (SU) both do a relatively good job in making all of these easily accessible. The problem is that not a lot of students enter campus knowing these little tips and tricks, so on behalf of the Gauntlet, this is my insider’s information on navigating campus as a Muslim.
Halal Food and Alternatives:
Mac Hall is the heart of the university and is the one place where students flow in from all corners of the campus whether it’s for a study snack, breakfast, lunch or dinner. As a Muslim student, your options for halal food are albeit limited but not the worst.
Craving some halal chicken or beef? Your duas have been answered. The iconic Bake Chef’s Vietnamese sub sandwiches are a campus staple and also offer halal meat options. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had their subs for a summer school iftar and had my mind blown every single time. The Den also has a variety of halal items on their menu — I might have blurted out a mashallah after trying their chicken quesadillas. And if you happen to be an international student worrying about whether you’ll be served halal options at the Dining Centre, The Landing makes an effort to cater to students with all forms of dietary restrictions.
Most restaurants located in MacHall do have vegetarian options but it’s just a matter of finding the good ones. As someone who eats halal food, I also know how hard it can be when my options are limited and the vegetarian options aren’t that exciting either. Thankfully, A&W and Carl’s Jr. have Beyond Meat burgers that exceed expectations when it comes down to flavour profile and just being overall good meals — Noodle & Grill Express does not disappoint either with it’s stir-fried noodles and veggie egg rolls, especially when it’s 11 p.m. and you’re desperate.
Places to Pray on Campus:
If this was high school, a teacher would probably wonder why you’re washing your feet in the bathroom sink at lunchtime. At the U of C, however, students have two Multi-Faith rooms located in Mac Hall alongside bathrooms with ablution, or wudu, stations that are designed so that you can sit down and use them as needed.
These Multi-Faith rooms are available to all students should they need to come in, meditate, pray or even just reflect. In addition to this, the Vitruvian Space, which is located in the basement of the Dining Centre, has also been used to host Jumu’ah prayers every Friday before the quarantine. It has reopened for group use beginning Aug. 30.
Sarah Ashton, the Pluralistic Engagement Coordinator of the U of C’s Faith and Spirituality Centre, states that the Vitruvian Space will be available to students during the 2021 term.
“All multi-faith space users are expected to follow UCalgary’s COVID-19 safety requirements, including guidelines around masking and rapid testing, as well Alberta public health guidelines regarding places of worship,” she said. “Groups are required to book in advance online. Bookings may be subject to change based on the ongoing situation with COVID-19.”
Overall, both spaces have been described as calming and beautiful environments where Muslim students can drop in for any of their five prayers throughout the day and find spiritual rejuvenation.
Clubs and Community Support:
Making friends is tough as a first-year student. This is amplified now more than ever as a result of the pandemic. And pandemic aside, so many Muslim students feel an overwhelming sense of isolation when coming to campus — many people don’t know where to start when it comes to finding that sense of identity and community.
Your best bet is to sign up for an SU club like the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA), Muslimah Empowered’s U of C Chapter or a volunteer-based club like the Muslims of Southern Alberta Initiating Change (MOSAIC). If you haven’t already signed up for these clubs during O-Week, it’s not too late to shoot them an email telling them you’re interested in attending their next event or if they’re actively recruiting junior executive members for a more hands-on role.
This column, The Muslim Voice, aims to give voice to Canadian Muslims in order to highlight their achievements, perspective, experiences and struggles as well as explore Islamic history related to contemporary events. This column is part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.