On the College of Geneva, Muslim college students will pray in any respect prices

On April 21, the article was published in topo, a student magazine at the University of Geneva, in which Kaouthar Najim talks about the daily lives of Muslim students reduced to prayer on a campus staircase. The reason? The university does not provide a room that would allow the most attentive students to perform five daily prayers. The institutional status quo, which has lasted for four years and is now a deteriorating situation among students.

Indeed, the article condemns the facts of the “provocation”: “Posters depicting Charlie Hebdo’s front page with sensitive images of the Muslim religion were stuck on the walls of the staircase,” writes a student who illustrates his contribution with a picture of a prayer rug thrown in a trash can. The information was confirmed by Otmane El Ainoui, a member of the Arab World Association of the University of Geneva (AMAGE). He notes that Muslim students, linked to the same WhatsApp group, would send these photos there and regret that the harmful climate is settling, without provoking any reaction from the institution.

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secular law

Students are calling for the creation of a “meditation room”, according to an online petition that began four years ago and was recently relaunched. According to the 3,000 petitioners, members of all denominations should have the opportunity to meet in a place that will allow them to “gain energy and enjoy a calming place on a spiritual level”. They also point out that this is already the case at the universities of Zurich, Saint-Gall and Lausanne. “Services and masses are held in the meditation area at the University of Lausanne, and a large number of students take advantage of the fact that they come there to meditate several times a day,” explains Anouk Troyon, a reformed chaplain.

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For Yves Flückiger, rector of the University of Geneva, “there is basically no contradiction to thinking about a space for meditation – and not a space for prayer – that is open to everyone, whether he is a believer or not, and which respects the rules of secularism. In addition, there is a Christian chaplain (Protestant and Catholic) on campus. However, according to the statutes, its activities fall under the “social service” and are “open to all members of the university community”. Jean-Michel Perret, a local Protestant chaplain, assures that he is only a “tenant of the state of Geneva”, does not receive any subsidies from the university and does not carry out “neither worship nor prayers” in its infrastructure.

According to Hafid Ouardiri, a former spokesman for the Geneva Mosque and director of the Foundation for Mutual Knowledge, this type of place should be considered, an “interfaith chaplain where everyone could gather according to their religion.” But what if the students still decide to pray there? For Hafid Ouardiri, who supports the demands of Muslim students, “the law on secularism should be extended to this possibility.”

The wording of the law, updated in 2018, stipulates that any religious activity is prohibited in public facilities (except medical and medical-social circles). In this way, Rector Yves Flückiger explains his refusal to enter the theme of the prayer room: “The University of Geneva guarantees freedom of conscience and faith, as well as strict religious neutrality, where all religious activities are prohibited in all its buildings.

outstretched hand

However, in April 2018, Protestants in Geneva heard a call from Muslim students, as explained by Pastor Carolina Costa of the LAB, a “Christian, progressive, militant and inclusive community” located in the Plainpalais. “At that time, at the initiative of our young people, I accepted one of the representatives of the association of Muslim students to offer them to come to pray at the temple. Unfortunately, this proposal was not continued, “he regrets. When asked about this outstretched hand, a student close to the Muslim Association of the University of Geneva answers openly: “Many Muslim and Christian students who seek a place of prayer have not felt well or recognized by this church.”

Finally, if some students on campus “pray at all costs”, according to the same student, the institution will not accept sanctions. “The university will always prioritize discussion and dialogue,” says Yves Flückiger, whose administration is expected to receive a new written request for a meditation room from several Muslim student associations, supported by the University Conference of Student Associations (CUAE), an umbrella organization. for student associations.

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