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John Passant

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April 2009



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RMIT Muslim Prayer Room campaign

The following article on the RMIT Muslim Prayer Room Campaign is by Liam Ward and first appeared in Socialist Alternative.

From the campaign’s beginning in early 2008, Socialist Alternative has been actively involved, proudly and publicly supporting the Muslims at RMIT University in seeking the return of their dedicated Prayer Rooms.

This issue is not one of secularism or limited space, as the University claims. It is a question of racism, pure and simple.

RMIT has been dishonest from the outset. After demolishing the old Prayer Rooms that had stood for 14 years, the university promised new ones.

That promise has been broken.

They continued to advertise the non-existent “new” Prayer Rooms to full-fee-paying international students for the bulk of 2008.

As recently as 23 March 2009, the university published an official statement in The Australian and on the front of their own website, explicitly claiming that RMIT provides “two Muslim Prayer Rooms on the City Campus.”

There is in fact one partitioned room on the Tivoli Campus, and none on the City Campus.

The university’s dishonesty is revealing, as are their recent attempts to publicly justify their actions on the basis that the university is secular, or that current construction has limited the available space.

Both these arguments obscure the fact this was a cynical and opportunistic attack on the rights of Muslim students and staff.

Australia in 2009 is a society that oppresses Muslims. Vilified by governments and media, they regularly find themselves being denied the right to practice their faith.

Consider RMIT’s sudden refusal to continue providing a Muslim Prayer Room on-campus. And even when Muslims try to build their own schools, in places like Camden and the Gold Coast, we witness particularly violent campaigns to prevent them.

So much for the argument of the secularists that “the Muslim community” needs to provide its own facilities!

If those who push the ‘secularism’ argument are really so concerned about religion on-campus, why aren’t they launching even the mildest of criticism against the many Christian colleges that dot various University campuses?

Why is their anger reserved solely for Islam?

Today, the language of secularism is just a cloak for Muslim-bashing. Muslims are singled out like this because anti-Muslim racism is the centerpiece in justifying the USA’s imperialist carnage in the Middle East and Central Asia.

In the last few years, the pervasive racism necessary in gaining support for such unpopular adventures gave birth to the lynch-mobs of Cronulla, the drive-by shooting of the Mirabooka Mosque, and the countless untold incidents of daily abuse that Muslims in Australia now experience.

It is despicable, though not unexpected, to see a University that prides itself on its international links and its diversity actively buying in to this prejudice, cynically using it as an opportunity to attack rights that students and staff have held for 14 years.

The recent public protest by RMIT Muslims and their supporters including Socialist Alternative was a lively, positive and uplifting experience.

It was a dignified and determined show of defiance that bodes well for the campaign, and shows that Muslims in Australia are sick of being singled-out and targeted.

Anti-racists need to stand firmly by their side and not be cowed by racists cloaked in the argument of secularism.


Article from The Age, March 24, Protest a matter of faith

Photos from the March 23 protest by Ali Hogg



Comment from George Gibson
Time April 3, 2009 at 10:22 am

I would like to point out that there is no Tivoli campus and this building is part of the city campus. Is the society trying to suggest each building is a new campusm, and they shoudl be provided facilities eact each building… If you investidagted the issue you would of found that Tivoli is an arcade and refers to ONE buidling. IT seems RMIT does not consider each building in the city a campys. TRy writing a researched article and dont assume wht ur told is truje

Comment from dezza
Time April 3, 2009 at 2:39 pm

“imperialist carnage”…if only this was true, the world would be so peaceful

Comment from David
Time April 4, 2009 at 2:52 am

The Age: “the university ha[s] eight dedicated Muslim prayer rooms on its various campuses, had offered a ninth, and also had two multifaith rooms.”

It’s not ‘racist’ (sic) to refuse to provide a particular religious group with whatever facilities they feel are necessary. It may well be that the uni has reneged on a promise, but it is absolutely farcical to suggest that this is some repressive conspiracy.

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