Beyond the Burg: Muslim students in London seek own prayer room

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April 2, 2010

4:09 AM

A group of Muslim students at City University in London are refusing to use a university-provided multi-faith room for religious services.

Upset by a lack of space in the existing prayer room, students began gathering in the street for prayer services. The public prayers have been continuing since Feb. 15, with over 200 male students reportedly gathering for Friday prayers each week.

The university closed the original Muslim prayer room after an attack on Muslim students resulted in two stabbings and the fracturing of one student’s skull.
Police described the incident as racially aggravated. The multi-faith prayer room was added one month later.

Now, some Muslim students say they will not pray in a multi-faith room and want the old facilities back.
“Our prayer room has been taken away,” Saleh Patel, president of the Islamic Society at the university, said to the BBC. “We’ve been forced to pray outside.”

However, university officials say that it is against school policy to create a space only for Muslim students.

“We felt that the provision of a dedicated prayer facility to a sub-section of our Islamic students did not fit with our university’s values,” professor Julius Weinberg, City University’s acting vice-chancellor, said to the BBC. “We’re a secular organization. Our university values statement says that we will not discriminate, and having a dedicated prayer room actually went fundamentally against the core values of the organization.”

According to school officials, not all Muslim students have problems with the new facilities that were provided, and some of them make use of the prayer room.

“Practice in other universities shows that many Muslims pray where others have been,” a university spokeswoman said. “City University has already seen its new space used by some of its Muslim students.”

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