A Muslim boy who was praying in the playground of the Ark Soane Academy in Ealing, London, has claimed that a teacher forced him to stop performing salah.
Twelve-year-old Thaher Tarawneh said that his teacher grabbed and told him that praying in the playground was “an act of defiance,” according to media reports.
Thaher’s parents said he has been left terrified and that they are contemplating removing him from the school after making a formal complaint about the issue.
The school has strongly denied the allegations.
The boy was praying in the playground, along with some Muslim friends, because the school’s prayer room was temporarily closed. He said a member of the school staff aggressively demanded them “to stop at once.”
According to reports, upon hearing the shout some of the students fled the area but Thaher continued his prayers. He was using his blazer as a prayer mat. The staff member allegedly removed the blazer from the area.
Later, Thaher claimed that he was compelled to sign a document that contained details of what took place. However, he said the details did not reflect the reality.
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His father, Muhammed, said: “We were called by the teacher in question later that day and she explained that she was a Muslim and that Thaher shouldn’t be praying there… We try to educate our children to have certain beliefs and it should not be up to any member of staff to try to challenge them.
“It is my understanding that the other children ran away because they were terrified of this staff member shouting. Thaher knows to not stop his prayer unless there is something urgent. So for this member of staff to interrupt that and then proceed to manhandle my son, it’s not acceptable.”
After the incident, Thaher’s parents were invited to the school as they had requested to see the CCTV footage. However, they claimed that when they reached school their request was declined.
Mr Tarawneh added: “It was during his break time and Thaher went to the facilities and was denied. After he was denied he asked for an alternative and was rejected so he went to a quiet corner and was told that it’s not a religious school so he can’t practice there. It’s 2022 and our son is being discriminated against because of his religion.”
A formal complaint has been filed by Thaher’s parents with the school and Ealing Council.
Reacting to the claims the school principal Matt Neuberger wrote to parents: “I was deeply saddened to see allegations of mistreatment of a student at Ark Soane which appeared in the press over the weekend.
“I have concluded my investigations into the complaint, including reviewing CCTV footage, and found no evidence that a student was grabbed by a member of staff and have found no evidence of threats, victimisation or persecution.
“I am incredibly proud of our community and the support we provide to students of all faiths and none. I am sorry that we were unable to provide our normal prayer facilities due to a school trip on the day in question and will ensure that prayer facilities are, in future, always available for students to use during their recreation time.”