Melbourne, Feb.25 : International Muslim students, predominantly from Saudi Arabia, have asked universities in Melbourne to change class times so they can attend congregational prayers.
According to the Daily Telegraph, they also want a female-only area for Muslim students to eat and relax.
At least one institution has rejected their demands, arguing that the university is secular and it does not want to set a precedent for requests granted in the name of religious beliefs.
La Trobe University International chief executive director John Molony said several students had approached the Bundoora institution about rearranging class times to fit in with daily prayers.
Molony said the university was attempting to "meet the needs" of an increasing number of Muslim international students, including doubling the size of the prayer room on campus.
A spokesman for RMIT University would neither confirm nor deny reports that Muslim students had requested timetable changes.
One university source told The Australian that the requests by Muslim international students for timetable changes included a petition.
Islamic leaders yesterday backed the push by Muslim students to have their lectures arranged to accommodate prayer sessions, but said such a move would be essential only for congregational Friday prayers.
A former senior member of John Howard's Muslim reference board said there was nothing in Islam that indicated men and women be segregated when it came to educational activities.
She said afternoon prayers for Muslims - Zhohor, at 1.10 p.m., and Asr, at 4.50 p.m. - could be performed until 10 minutes before the following daily prayer, so it was more appropriate to alter prayer times than lecture schedules.