Canadian Evangelical Leader OK With University Adding Muslim Footbaths

An evangelical leader in Canada has expressed his approval of a Saskatchewan academic institute adding footbaths to a building on their campus for the benefit of Muslim students.

Recently the University of Regina added footbaths at the Riddell Centre building to have an on-campus facility for Muslims to ceremonially wash themselves before praying.

Bruce Clemenger, president of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, told The Christian Post that Regina's move was "a good example" of how to properly accommodate Muslim students.

"It is important, where possible, to accommodate the specific religious observance needs of students," said Clemenger.

"It also shows that the university affirms that deep religious belief and university studies are not incompatible. This is good news for students of all faiths."

Clemenger also told CP that unlike in the United States, in his country there "is no legal barrier to accommodation."

"In Canada there is no separation-of-church-and-state doctrine in our Canadian constitution, and there is no legal barrier to public facilities to be used for religious purposes, or accommodations being afforded religious groups," said Clemenger.

"Campus associations of various faiths, including Christian clubs, are able to meet on campuses, to hold events, book rooms etc."

Earlier this year, the University of Regina installed two foot baths in the Riddell Centre's restrooms for the benefit of the campus 700-plus Muslim students.

The total cost for the baths was approximately $35,000 and the "official opening" for the footbaths will be held early next month, as reported by the Canadian publication Metro News.

Aside from the newly installed baths, Regina has also provided a prayer space at the Riddell Centre for Muslim students and has dining options involving the halal or "permissible" rules for a Muslim diet at select times.

"We're showing our ability to cater to their needs," said Nathan Sgrazzutti, president of the Regina's Students Union, in a statement last week.

Mhmoud Essalah, president of the University's Muslim Students Association chapter, told The Christian Post that the "MSA has worked closely with Student Affairs, UR International, and Facilities Management with respect to the concept and design."

"I am grateful for the addition of the special sinks; they make wudu a lot easier for the 700-800 Muslims on campus," said Essalah.

The news has made its way through rightwing blogs and social media, with many expressing disapproval in online places like End Times Headlines and Free Republic.

Various commenters have argued that there is a hypocrisy in these and other accomodations, claiming that as Christianity gets taken out of schools Islam is put in its place.

Clemenger of the EFC told CP that Canadian colleges in general provide accommodation to diverse religious groups when needs arise, including the orientation of campus schedules to the Christian calendar.

"The most common accommodation is providing a room for prayers if there is no multi-faith chapel. This is not unusual as Christian clubs also book rooms and hold events," said Clemenger.

"York University in Toronto has a sizeable Jewish student population and has not scheduled exams on high Jewish holidays for several decades."

The University of Regina did not return comment to The Christian Post by press time.

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