Muslim students take legal advice after City University shuts down Friday prayer meeting

 

RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT

Muslim students at a London university who had their weekly Friday prayer meeting on campus shut down because they refused to allow staff members to view and pre-authorise their sermons before delivery have told The Independent that they are seeking legal advice.

City University ordered the students to submit their weekly khutbah sermon in advance of the gatherings so that they could check “the quality and appropriateness of what is being delivered.” The students refused saying the demand amounted to outright censorship on campus.

Wasif Sheikh, a 23-year-old optometry student who helped organise the prayer meetings, said human rights lawyer Saghir Hussain had agreed to represent them.

“Asking us to submit sermons in advance opens a dangerous door,” he said. “Once you submit sermons to be pre-approved and monitored, it opens the doors for a university to dictate what is allowed to be talked about and what isn’t. It’s an attack on student rights, not just Muslim student rights.”

Mr Hussain said he believed the students might have a case against the university in law.

“Any action which is targeting students because of their face or faith will breach the Equality Act 2010,” he said. “Higher educational institutions should promote freedom of expression and the proposed vetting of sermons smacks of a Middle East autocratic regimes rather than a place of learning. The law requires justification and a proportionate response to potential discrimination and interference with fundamental rights. The argument here is that all Muslims are being punished for the alleged indiscretions of a minority in the distant past. This is at odds with the ethos of such institutions and the law.”

City University has previously struggled with radicalism from its Islamic Society. In 2010 the Quilliam Foundation, an anti-extremism think-tank, published a report accusing its members of intimidating other students, particularly those on the campus newspaper, as well as gay, Jewish and female students.

In one sermon, which was recorded, the speaker said: “The Islamic state teaches to cut the hand of the thief. Yes it does. And it also teaches us to stone the adulterer. When they tell us that, the Islamic state tells us and teaches us to kill the apostate, yes it does.”

However it is not clear if the Friday prayers, which the university claims is not run by the Islamic Society, have been a cause for concern when it comes to radical or hate speeches. A source at the University told The Independent that the decision to close down the Friday prayers was not triggered by a single recent event or a recent rise in concern of radicalism. Instead it was taken after “long and careful consideration”.

Muslim students on campus believe they have been unfairly targeted while Mr Sheikh said the Isoc was intimately involved in organising and publicising the Friday prayes. They have set up a campaign group, Muslim Voices on Campus, to protest the closure of the prayer facilities.

In a series of video messages on the MVoC Facebook page, Muslim students have voiced their outrage at the decision. 

“I feel the utmost anger,” one unnamed student said in the video. “If I was to recommend this university to other students I would think twice. To be taking away this massive right for us. This is not just a concern for Muslims around the university, we should get everyone involved as well.”

Another added: “Many Muslims on campus and international students will go elsewhere to a different university, who accepts us, accepts our religion, our values and our morals.”

The government has repeatedly ordered Universities to take a tougher stance against Islamist radicalism on campus. In 2011 a cross-parliamentary group of MPs and peers claimed fundamentalism was still flourishing. However, many universities and academics are loathe to monitor or crack down on radicalism given that campuses are exactly the kind of places where free speech, radical thinking and the countering of extremist ideas should be openly encouraged.

In a statement, City University said the room used was never a dedicated space specifically Friday prayers and was instead an area that students could use for various activities ranging from meetings to pilates classes. Last year the University asked those organising the prayers to submit their sermons in advance and keep them online afterwards for people to view.

“Friday prayers were deemed University events open to all students and staff, and are not solely a student or student society event,” the statement read. “As such the University needs to be assured of the quality and appropriateness of what is being delivered and that all students eligible to deliver prayers and sermons are considered equally and given the opportunity to do so.”

The statement added: “Despite repeated requests and assurances, the information from those students leading Friday prayers was not forthcoming. Whilst this was a disappointment, the University could not continue to condone an activity taking place on its premises where it cannot exercise reasonable supervision.”

The university also said it had given students alternative options for Friday prayers that were away from campus but nearby.

Giulio Folino, president of the City University Student Union, said he had sympathy for both sides of the argument and was working to try and find a solution. “It is important that both the University and students recognise the importance of balancing rights and responsibilities,” he said. “Whilst it is right that the University needs to be reassured of the appropriateness of discussions on university property, I also believe that this should not interfere with freedom of speech on campus.”

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence