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Wednesday, September 16, 1998 Published at 19:10 GMT 20:10 UK


Islamic school threatened with closure

Nation of Islam pupils protest against school closure

A private school run by the Nation of Islam has been given a month's warning of closure.

The Star Chamber Academy in Hammersmith, West London, founded by the radical black organisation, has been teaching around 60 pupils without permission from the education authorities.

The Department for Education and Employment says that it has written to the school requiring it to apply for registration within a month or face closure.

Every school teaching more than five pupils has to register with the government and undergo inspections, with prison penalties threatened for those operating schools illegally.

The West London school is based in rooms in a community centre owned by the local authority, Hammersmith and Fulham Council.

Although not involved in the decision over the school's closure, the council has been in dispute with the Nation of Islam over its use of the community centre.

Street protest

Hammersmith and Fulham Council wants the school to leave its premises, saying that it is not appropriate for teaching children. A request in August for the school to move out was met by a street protest outside council offices by members of the Nation of Islam.

The council says that it is still seeking an agreement on the school leaving the community centre.

The Nation of Islam, an organisation originating in the United States, has caused controversy with its views on racial separation. Its leader, Louis Farrakhan, has been excluded from Britain since 1988.

The group came into the public eye in Britain when its members, distinctively dressed in suits and bow ties, appeared at the inquiry into the death of the murdered black teenager, Stephen Lawrence.

A spokesman for the Nation of Islam declined to comment on the Department for Education and Employment's warning.

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