In a meeting this week Muslim students were told formally that on the eve of Ramadan, the University is proposing to take away Friday Prayer Space for Muslim students due to the exam space crisis; and that it is proposing to permanently take away the Muslim daily prayer space in Lecture Theatre 2, to be replaced with a corridor to the Library.
UPDATE: ISoc are holding a Friday Prayer demonstration in the Square today (Friday 19 May) at 1pm. People of all beliefs are welcome to attend and show solidarity with our Muslim students. Norwich South MP Clive Lewis will also be attending to show his support.
Over the last few years, Muslim students have compromised with the University and used the Lecture Theatre 2 for prayer and worship, but in doing so have been forced to be monitored with a campus card swipe system – which is not the case with any other faiths. This is also the case with Blackdale for compulsory Friday congregational prayers. However, all of this compromise was only with the understanding that it is a temporary solution with the understanding that the University was finding a more permanent solution- which it has failed to show any progress or evidence of. Both of these situations have caused a tremendous amount of anxiety and inconvenience for Muslim students as it has made them feel observed and treated like an inconvenience to the University.
The University’s proposed solution- to use the Multi-Faith centre- has been developed without any consultation with either Muslim students or the Student Union. Yet following detailed consultation and examination, the University rejected use of the multi faith centre for daily and Friday prayer back in 2014.
Minutes from the University’s multi faith consultative group that year stated that ‘it seems that the space within the MFC will most likely be insufficient for congregational and possibly also day to day prayers’ for Muslim students. It is therefore now ignoring the concerns and the evidence Muslim students previously submitted that this space is not only impossible and unsuitable to pray in. In addition this will affect the other faith groups in an already crowded Multi-Faith centre.
We are also concerned that in the last 2 years there has been no written progress or investigation into a permanent (or longer term) solution to Muslim prayer space on campus as was promised, an almost complete abandonment of ongoing dialogue and no current public UEA plans mention any plans for prayer space for Muslim students. We are also concerned that with the increase of student population every year this deepens the space crisis on campus – this is directly affecting the 600+ Muslim students on campus whose only space for Friday prayer (Blackdale) is being taken away because of the space crisis for exams. This is an example of how Muslim students are being overlooked, before we even start on the fact that once again this year the exam period falls on Ramadan, with no consideration for Muslim students.
We would remind the University of its duties under the Equality Act 2010 which states, under section 29, ‘a service [The University] must not, in providing the service, discriminate against a person (b) [of a protected characteristic, here is faith] by terminating the provision of the service to (b)’. This is reflected in your faith and belief policy which we collaborated on in 2014/15. With the inability of the University to provide a sufficient and appropriate alternative space, which the Multi-Faith Centre is not, we would regard the University to be breaching the Equality Act 2010 by taking away the only prayer spaces suitable for Muslim students on campus.
The SU has repeatedly warned that growing student numbers without growing appropriate facilities risks damaging the student experience and this is a classic example of being proved right about that risk. We would urge the University to redouble its efforts to find an appropriate solution.
Jo Swo – Welfare, Community and Diversity Officer
Malaika Jaovisidha – International Students Officer
Shoaib Jamshaidi – ISOC president 2016/17
Aya Delfi- Former ISOC President 2015/16
Haroon Razmandeh – Future ISOC President 2017/18
Madeleine College – Postgraduate Education Officer
You can sign the petition against these closures here.