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UKZN has no reason for converting Jamat Khana, says MSA

by Salaamedia Intern

Durban – The University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Clinical Medicine plans to convert the Jamat Khana on campus to a multi-faith prayer room has been met with a strong objection from the Muslim Student Association (MSA). According to Prof. Ncoza Dlova, the Dean of UKZN School of Clinical Medicine, while there are objections, the decision is final and not up for debate. 

The current plan is to remove the carpet and ‘Muslim’ decor from the Jamat Khana while keeping the partitions ensuring the room remains split into a male and female section. Each faith will be allocated a time to use the prayer room. The Jamat Khana has been on campus for the past 25 years and this decision has come as a shock to all Muslim students, expressed Ahmad Mahomed, a fourth year medical student at UKZN.

“The fact of the matter is the MSA, and the Muslims of campus have been looking after this place for the past 25 years or so. Now all of a sudden the university comes and says they want to change this place into a multi-faith prayer room. No questions asked.”


The reason given for converting the Jamat Khana 

According to the Dean, the multi-faith prayer room comes after different religious clubs had requested for a prayer room. As there is no other place on campus, the decision was made to convert the Jamat Khana. However, the MSA held a meeting with the various religious clubs, and they all confirmed that no request was made from any of them, said Mahomed.

“The reason given by the Dean of Medical School was that there were requests by other religious organisations for an area on campus to pray. The reason to take our room is the campus is too small to accommodate everyone anywhere … However, the problem is not a single other religious club has actually claimed to have asked for a room. In fact, every club has explicitly stated they don’t want this room. It is fine. They don’t need a separate or exclusive room for their religious needs.”


The support for the MSA

 The Minara Chamber of Commerce has written a letter addressed to the Minister of Higher Education, Director-General of Higher Education and Training, Dean and Head of School of Clinical Medicine, Deputy Vice Chancellor of UKZN and the Chancellor of UKZN stating their “disappointment” with the decision to convert Jamat Khana. The MSA has also written to the Dean and has the backing of Jamiatul Ulama KZN.

“We have sent an email to the Dean herself on Tuesday. Up until now the email has not been responded to. I must make special mention of Solly Suleman, Minara Chamber of Commerce. He has sent a letter which has been responded to by the Corporate Relations Officer at UKZN. Also, I must make special mention of Mulana Ahmed Mahomedy and Mulana Abdullah Khan of Jamiaat. They have also shown their support for us in our cause.”

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The Jamat Khana is in the care of the students

For the past 25 years the Jamat Khana has been in the care of the MSA and the Muslims on campus. The university plays no part in the upkeep of the Jamat Khana or owns anything in it. Everything was provided by the Muslim students, explained Mahomed.

“Its not as if we had shown up one day and said this is ours. It was a space allocated to us by the Dean of Medical School at that time. In fact, the university has only provided the room for us. Everything inside the room is our property. The carpets, the furnishings, the frames on the wall, the whiteboard etc. Everything in that room is our property. The university is simply there to give us the room. That is it. Even the weekly maintenance of the room, the university isn’t involved. We are the ones who vacuum the room every single week. The university is not involved in the maintenance of the room.”

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The options available to the MSA

There are other options available to the MSA. In the email to the Dean, the MSA offered to rent the space and even buy the space from the campus. However, the MSA are unsure what else can be done since the Dean has failed to respond to their email.

“We are looking at [different] options. In our email to the Dean on Tuesday, we did offer to rent the space, buy the space. So, since she hasn’t responded to our emails, we don’t really know what our actions are going forward. However, the most positive resolution that we are looking at is the Minara Chamber of Commerce letter because the Corporate Relations Officer has responded and said they are escalating the issue and looking at it with urgency. Those are positive signs and all the other religious clubs have clearly stated to the university that they have no use for the room. We are the only ones who need the room.”

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