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‘We cannot allow this’ - UEA Muslim students hold open-air prayer in protest at loss of religious space

PUBLISHED: 12:58 20 May 2017 | UPDATED: 12:58 20 May 2017

UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

archant 2017

Hundreds of Muslim university students stood in solidarity by holding an open-air prayer in protest at the loss of their religious space.

UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

The University of East Anglia (UEA) students learned a week before Ramadan, through an unofficial source, that they were to temporarily lose their prayer room due to a £2m refurbishment of its main lecture theatres.

Instead they were offered the Multi-Faith Centre for their main Friday prayers, even though a university report in 2014 deemed it inadequate for that purpose.

Students will also be able to use the university’s Blackdale main hall in the evenings. They will also be able to use them for Friday prayers, but only when exam season is over.

A UEA spokesman 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.

UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

“That facility will become available to Muslim students again from the beginning of the new academic year. A working group has been established to consider longer-term solutions.”

The Muslim students sat together in the centre of the square for one of their daily prayers in demonstration at the change. They were joined by non-Muslim supporters, who joined hands and encircled them in a bid to show solidarity.

Former president of the Islamic Society at the university, Meanha Begun, said: “I have been part of the Islamic Society here at UEA for a number of years. To me it means everything to have an adequate space where we feel respected.

“We hope this demonstration will be enough for UEA to hear our voices. We want permanent prayer facilities.”

UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Student Amina Abdul-Aziz said: “I feel it’s my duty to stand up for my faith.

“I am proud to stand in solidarity with my fellow students. We cannot allow this. As Muslims our day is planned around five times of prayer. It means a lot to us. Prayer is the centre of our student life. It will affect our wellbeing.

“The multi-faith centre that has been offered is not adequate for 600 Muslim students – it is a space for 60. It will compromise the other faith groups who use it too.”

UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. James Cooper. Picture : ANTONY KELLY UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. James Cooper. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

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