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Syracuse University: Female Muslim students demand exclusive pool access



The principle is always and everywhere the same: in Muslim countries, one must conform one’s behavior to Muslim sensibilities. In non-Muslim countries, one must conform one’s behavior to Muslim sensibilities. 

“Female Muslim students call for increased accommodations in SU pools,” by Katie McClellan, Daily Orange, September 19, 2022:

Syracuse University student Hawa Omar never learned how to swim. When Omar arrived at SU, she was excited to learn, but quickly discovered The Barnes Center at the Arch’s pool is not accessible to Muslim women like herself.

“I’m not able to exercise. I’m not able to have fun in the pool, or even learn how to swim,” Omar said. “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.”

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. Muslim students told The Daily Orange that SU lacks proper accommodations for them, especially in gyms and pools….

Naqib mentioned feeling uncomfortable when wearing her hijab at the gym, recalling getting “weird stares.”

Amarkhil said the Barnes swimming pool should allocate a specific time for Muslim women to use the facility. Her request isn’t anything new….

But even with specialized hours, using the Barnes Center’s facilities may not be possible for some students. Omar and Rahim said the glass windows and doors looking into the pool are another obstacle in their efforts to make the area accessible to Muslim women. Omar suggested installing curtains to block the windows, and prevent men from seeing women swimming.

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 said Sibley pool at the Women’s Building, which is less exposed than the Barnes pool, could be a perfect solution. Since less people use the pool, the university could easily block out specialized hours for students, she said.

The university is open to connecting with Muslim students about the issue, and provide better accommodations, said Sarah Scalese, SU’s senior associate vice president for communications.

Still, 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.”…

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