Published on February 26, 2013 | by Vanessa Smart

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City University’s prayer room locked to Muslim students

City University sign

Students at City were asked to submit their sermons for university approval. [Geograph: Stephen Mckay]

Muslim students feel “unjustly targeted” after City University London started locking a prayer room due to its concerns over sermons, according to the leader of an Islamic rights campaign group.

Students were asked to submit their sermons to the university to be checked and after failing to do so, lost the use of the space for Friday prayers.

Wasif Sheikh is the leader of Muslim Voices on Campus, a campaign group set up by students at the university following the closure of their prayer facilities.

He said: “We feel we are being unjustly targeted. All of our sermons are open, we welcome all students and all staff.

“When you start submitting your sermons to be monitored and scrutinised then there’s a chance for it to be dictated what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. We, as students, don’t accept that.”

Rights and threats

Dr. Usama Hasan, from the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-terrorism think-tank spoke to Arts London News about the closure.

He said: “Obviously students have basic religious rights, but many people are not aware of the history here.

“The extremist activities included promoting the preacher Anwar Awlaki and threatening two of the university lecturers after they criticised the Islamic Society’s disgraceful behaviour,” he said.

“The Muslim students at City deserve religious facilities as well as moderate, enlightened leadership.” Quilliam Foundation’s Dr. Usama Hasan

Hasan does however recognise that there is a solution that will benefit both the students and the university.

He said: “The situation is quite simple: the Muslim students at City [University London] deserve religious facilities as well as moderate, enlightened leadership.

“If the Islamic Society is able to ensure that hardline fanatics do not dominate the society again, we’re pretty sure that the university would restore their prayer facilities.”

The university defended their decision by releasing a statement saying that they needed to be “assured of the quality and appropriateness of what is being delivered.”

They added that due to the lack of information from students regarding the content of the sermons, “the university could not continue to condone an activity taking place on its premises where it cannot exercise reasonable supervision.”

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