A Mammon-solution to an Allah-problem

Letter writers to The Age are not impressed with demands from Muslim students for dedicated prayer rooms at RMIT. Plausibly enough, some argue that a secular institution like RMIT should not favour one religious group over another.

It seems to me than an obvious solution is being overlooked. The University should provide a Muslims-only prayer room, but do so on a commercial basis. RMIT could either rent a room to a Muslim group, or operate the prayer room itself by issuing students with swipe cards in exchange for a fee. Maybe the very religious could get bulk discounts for using the room 5 times a day, or maybe it could be like a gym membership, in which the sunk cost encourages attendance from those whose desire to get fit or show faith is not always matched with action.

If RMIT charged too much, this would provide an incentive for other groups to offer cheaper prayer space. Indeed, particularly for RMIT’s city campus I imagine there is a good business opportunity in seeking custom from the many Muslims who now use Melbourne’s CBD.

Another win-win market solution.

11 thoughts on “A Mammon-solution to an Allah-problem

  1. I must admit that whilst I like the idea, I think the probability of it happening is approximately zero. Presumably if they did, they would have to do it with all RMIT clubs and organizations (not just religious ones) and I can imagine the constant howls of complaint over that.
    .
    I think a simpler solution for them would be just to join up with organizations that already exist — this way they could pretty much eliminate most religious use of their buildings, since there are already a fair few churches floating around the city, and I assume there must be some mosques also (where are other Muslim workers in the city going?). This way if a fee was charged, RMIT wouldn’t be charging it, so it would look much better, and I imagine the congregations in the city might well be happy to have the new members. I also assume most are free to people that don’t have the money.

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  2. From what I hear, the lack of mosques in the inner city is partly behind the problem.

    RMIT could still provide shared rooms for free, though I agree with you that the RMIT city campus with almost every service except mosques within a short walk or tram ride does not need to worry too much about these things.

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  3. I think the university is essentially suggesting this. Take care of your own religious affairs fellows. Who they rent a prayer room from is irrelevant – it just isn’t RMIT’s job to promote the spread of religion.

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  4. On the other hand, we don’t have to treat every interaction with our fellow human beings as a moneygrubbing opportunity. Even if these students are paying, overseas students, they can also be seen as guests in this country, and we would just be well-mannered hosts in providing them with a place to pray. Obviously it’s important to them, it doesn’t have to be something we approve of or promote. A nice multi-faith space as provided seems OK.

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  5. I read about this a few days ago, so it is getting hazy, but I think the point was the muslim students didn’t want to share the multi faith space, and wanted another for themselves..

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  6. If RMIT wants to recruit international students who come from places where Islam is an important part of many individuals identity and culture then facilitating access to resources to support this for those individuals would seem positive. Religion may be seen as peripheral to many Australians but where we are sellng something to people who don’t share that understanding it seems self-defeating to not address that concern.

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  7. If this was a blanket ruling then it would be fine but given the university provides rooms for homosexuals and other groups, why shouldn’t Muslim students expect that they continue to provide Muslim prayer rooms?

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