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Female Muslim Syracuse U. students demand exclusive pool accommodations

‘There can’t be any men’

Some female Muslim students at Syracuse University say they can’t swim (or learn to swim) because the school won’t grant them exclusive hours when only they can be in the pool.

Or, more specifically, when no men can be present.

“Covering, or maintaining modest dress for religious reasons, is at best uncomfortable and at worst impossible for Muslim women who choose to cover their bodies when they’re using Barnes Center facilities, such as the pool,” The Daily Orange reports.

Syracuse grad student Sajiah Naqib told the student paper that when she lived in Malaysia (where almost two-thirds of the population is Muslim) there were separate pools for men and women.

“Usually I’d have to fix my scarf while I’m in the pool, but if you’re in an environment where it’s just girls, you don’t really care and you can swim,” Naqib said. “You’re more comfortable.”

Naqib, also a member of the Syracuse Muslim Student Association, said she feels “uncomfortable” wearing a hijab at Syracuse exercise facilities because she gets “weird stares” from other gym-goers.

Fellow MSA member Zuhal Amarkhil said Syracuse — which is a private university — should “should allocate a specific time for Muslim women to use the facility.”

MORE: New state law requires professors reschedule exams for fasting Muslim students who ask

Even if this request was granted, however, there’s still a problem: the facility’s windows. Student Hawa Omar said the university should add curtains to cover up the windows to “prevent men from seeing women swimming.” She added “As Muslims we have to cover, and when we’re in a swimming pool, obviously we’re not covering, so there can’t be any men.”

From the story:

Rayan Mohamed, a freshman in MSA, believes solutions to the issue will benefit all female students at SU, not just Muslim women.

“I’m sure it’s not only Muslims, I think there’ll be a lot of female students that would benefit from it because not everyone is comfortable with all genders swimming (together),” Mohamed said. …

[MSA Administrator Mariam] Abdelghany believes the problem with accessibility at SU is bigger than just pool access.

“We are very underrepresented,” she said. “Even with faculty, I think a lot don’t know the Muslim accommodations they should have for students.”

Omar said if SU kept an open dialogue with its Muslim students, they wouldn’t have as many issues with pool access. She suggested administering a survey to ask Muslim students what they feel SU is doing right and where they should improve.

Omar added “Sometimes there is no inclusion. But there is diversity because we’re here.”

MORE: Muslim scholar blames U.S. for ‘institutionalized’ and ‘internalized’ Islamophobia

IMAGE: Voices of Europe / Twitter screencap

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