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U of S Muslim Student Association says university not doing enough to offer accommodations during Ramadan


The president of the Muslim Student Association at the University of Saskatchewan claims students are not being given religious accommodation to write exams during Ramadan, calling it institutional Islamophobia.

“We were very appalled to find out that the university denied students, initially, the ability to write the exam on another day,” said Abdirahman Ali Khalif. “They said that Ramadan did not fit in, in what they consider to be a religious holiday that prohibits the writing of an exam.”

“If you force Muslim students to write examinations during Ramadan, you’re forcing them to choose between failing their faith or failing the examination.”

Ali Khalif says since the Islamic calendar does not align with the Gregorian calendar, Ramadan moves back two weeks every year.

It begins this weekend, while exams at the university begin April 9.

In a statement, interim vice provost teaching, learning, and student experience Jay Wilson says the university recognizes the importance of Ramadan as well as the importance of accommodating religious beliefs, and 50 accommodations for exams during Ramadan have been arranged.

Ali Khalif says the university's Access and Equity services (AES) reached out to students individually to give them the option of writing exams the next day, which he says could work for some students but not all.

“Accommodations are not based on the majority, accommodations are actually based on the minority,” he said.

“Accommodations are there to not give people advantage, but to even the playing field and to give everyone an equal chance to succeed in examination.”

Ali Khalif says Ramadan requires fasting from sun up to sundown, meaning no drinking or eating, as well as prayers that can go late into the night and start early in the morning.

“If you combine all of these factors it affects the sleeping schedule of students, it affects the diet of students, it affects the mental health of students,” he said.

He’d like to see accommodations given to allow students to write exams when Ramadan is over.

“Do the examinations where you are severely disadvantaged, or basically failed the examination because if you don't do the examination you get the grade of zero," he said.

"To be honest, it’s not an accommodation to some of our students, it's an ultimatum," he said.

Wilson says there is a range of accommodations available to students to best support their success in their studies.

“We are committed to the process of working with all students who are not satisfied with their accommodation to find a reasonable solution,” he said.

“Students are encouraged to reach out to AES to explore potential accommodations available to them based on their circumstance of need.”

Ali Khalif says the process could have been made easier if AES had been in touch with the MSA to discuss solutions.

“It was very strange for us that our university have denied all these accommodations, and it shows that is the opposite of equity, diversity and inclusion, because there was no inclusion in the process to begin with,” he said.

“It shows that they do not understand the nuances around Ramadan.”

In a statement, the university's office of the Muslim Chaplaincy says it recommends the university add an accommodation to write after Ramadan.

“We believe that this is a reasonable request for accommodation for Muslim students. In addition, we would like to have a policy in place moving forward as is common among other universities across Canada as evidenced on their websites and religious observances calendars.”

The office of the Muslim Chaplaincy says it’s important that the university understand the importance of consulting with the students and their established representative voices such as the MSA and Muslim Chaplaincy.

“We would like to ask the University what the research process was with regards to their decision making on religious accommodations for Ramadan and how did they come to this determination,” the statement reads.

“Muslims have had to deal with rising Islamophobia on campus and unfortunately this is par for the course in the way that Muslims have been treated. We would like to outline that the lack of response to Muslim advocacy on campus is an example of institutionalized islamophobia.” Top Stories

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