Muslim students protest over Newcastle University’s plans to limit their prayer space 

Muslim students protest over Newcastle University’s plans to limit their prayer space

From the Chronicle

Muslim students took part in a peaceful protest against a university’s plans to limit their prayer space. Earlier this year, Newcastle University announced the temporary closure its Muslim prayer space, in the King George VI Building, over the summer while they removed asbestos from ducts.

The room used to be open around-the-clock for the exclusive use of the university’s Muslim community. However, since the space re-opened in September, new operating times have come into force and students claim they have been told it could soon get turned into a multi-faith space instead.

On Sunday, Muslim students took part in a public prayer session outside the King George VI building in peaceful protest against the move. They claim the current facility is already overflowing, with students often having to perform Friday prayers outside the building due to a lack of space, and there is “realistically no capacity to house other faiths’ societies on the same premises”.

Doesn’t the university have a lot of mature students! But no women? How so? 

Newcastle University’s Islamic Society want to keep managing the room themselves and are asking the university to overturn its current decision to convert the Muslim prayer space to a multi-faith space.

Omar Ali, 19, a second year medical student, said: “The room has been a Muslim prayer space for 30 years and it was open 24/7. It’s now closed most of Saturday and all day Sunday. There is no alternative outside those hours and we have to pray outside or in other public buildings. The university has said in the past they don’t want people praying in libraries but that is what they are forcing us to do. ”

Danyal Ladha, 23, a fifth year medical student, said: “On Friday prayer in particular, there are so many of us using the prayer space that there is not enough room and we spill outside. The room holds 400, so that tells you how many people use it. There just simply isn’t enough room for it to be turned into a multi-faith space . ..”

In a statement on their website, a spokesperson for Newcastle University said: “In the last 18 months, the university has faced a number of unexpected building issues, which have impacted upon faith-based provision, affecting both Windsor Terrace and King George VI Prayer space. There have been some operational difficulties with the prayer room, especially regarding late night access. . .  the university is forming a Multi Faith Space Task and Finish Group, which will look at the needs of all faith groups within the university with the aim of ensuring equitable faith space provision . . . Currently the only dedicated faith space is the prayer room in King George VI exclusively provided for our Muslim students and staff. The sensitive issue of use of the prayer room by any other faiths will be reviewed by the Task and Finish Group.”

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