The University of East Anglia has told Muslim students that their Friday prayer space has to be taken away due to a “lack of space” during exam season.
Students did their jummah prayers yesterday in the main university square in protest against the move.
A spokesperson from the UEA Islamic Society said: “This coming Sunday, the university will begin the process of permanently demolishing our Islamic prayer rooms. This has been planned with absolutely no consultation with Muslim students. We were not informed at all and we found out about this demolition ourselves less than a week before the start of the project, through word of mouth, rather than an official body.
“They proposed an unacceptable alternative – the multi faith centre which does not accommodate our specific prayer requirements and would be disruptive for other faiths practicing in there. After many meetings and discussions with official bodies of the university, our concerns appear to still be completely neglected and they have been uncooperative in negotiations. The university still plans to move forward with the demolition and thats why we plead for you help in securing suitable prayer spaces… We feel insulted, hurt and deprived.”
The Islamic Society is also urging people to sign the petition below in solidarity.
Meanwhile, UEA’s Student Union has accused the university of discrimination, failing its duties under the Equality Act.
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Union spokesperson for welfare, community and diversity, Jo Swo, said the situation had 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.”
A UEA spokesperson said the Vice Chancellor would be meeting with students imminently to discuss the matter.
In a statement, the university said: “As part of a £2m investment in new library study spaces and the complete refurbishment of the University’s main lecture theatres the use of a prayer facility near Lecture Theatre 2 will be temporarily unavailable for safety reasons during the building works.
“That facility will become available to Muslim students again from the beginning of the new academic year.
“The Blackdale main hall will also continue to be available to Muslim students during the evenings but will not be available for Friday prayers for one month while exams take place.
“As a result, during this period, the main worship space in the University’s Multi-Faith Centre* will be available to Muslim students for Friday prayers.”
The main hall would be available again for Friday prayers once the exam season finished, they university said, adding that a working group had been established to consider longer-term solutions for the faith group.