Page last updated at 15:58 GMT, Thursday, 1 April 2010 16:58 UK

Muslim students in London university prayer room row

A group of Muslim students at City University pray on the street
A group of Muslim students pray on the street

By Poonam Taneja
BBC Asian Network

Some Muslim students at City University in London are praying in the street in a row over prayer room facilities.

The university closed a prayer room after Muslim students were attacked in November. A new multi-faith room was opened the following month.

A group of Muslim students now refuse to use the facility as they say they cannot pray in a multi-faith room.

The university says it goes against its philosophy to provide a room for just Islamic students.

'Secular organisation'

"We felt that the provision of a dedicated prayer facility to a sub-section of our Islamic students did not fit with our university's values," said Professor Julius Weinberg, who is the acting vice-chancellor at City University.

"We're a secular organisation. Our university values statement says that we will not discriminate and having a dedicated prayer room actually went fundamentally against the core values of the organisation."

Our needs have been taken away
City University's Islamic society president Saleh Patel

The prayer room was moved for safety reasons after a group of Muslim students were attacked by local youths, in what police said was a racist incident.

As well as worshipping on the street for the past few weeks, some students have also held prayers in lecture-rooms, corridors and the library.

"Our needs have been taken away," said Saleh Patel, president of one of the Islamic societies at the university.

"Our prayer room has been taken away. We've been forced to pray outside.

"Our sisters have nowhere comfortable to go to. The prayer room used to be a place where they were comfortable and able to take off their veils."

However, when it comes to using a multi-faith room to pray not all Muslims subscribe to the view that they cannot use it and even City University's Islamic Society concedes that some Islamic scholars disagree with this interpretation.

"There are many Muslim students belonging to another Islamic society who are very happy to use the shared faith facility we've provided and now feel more supported by the university," said Professor Weinberg.

You can hear more on this story on the BBC's Asian Network Reports radio show or via the BBC iPlayer.



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