Anger as UEA close prayer facilities for Muslim students just a week before Ramadan

An aerial picture of the University of East Anglia. Picture: University of East Anglia

An aerial picture of the University of East Anglia. Picture: University of East Anglia - Credit: Archant

The University of East Anglia (UEA) has sparked controversy after it proposed to remove a daily prayer space for Muslim students to be replaced with a corridor to its library.

The decision made 'with no consultation' comes a week before Ramadan – a month of fasting and religious focus for the Muslim community.

In 2014, students were designated a daily prayer space in the Lecture Theatre Block and a larger space was made available in the Blackdale building for Friday prayers.

But the move will see the university's more than 500 Muslim students forced to use the multi-faith centre, despite UEA concluding in 2014 that the space 'would most likely be insufficient for congregational (Friday) and possibly also day to day prayers', when the university previously tried to close the Islamic Centre.

The daily prayer space would close so a corridor can be built between the Lecture Theatre Block and neighbouring library, and the Blackdale facilities withdrawn due to the need for more exam space.

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Shoaib Jamshaidi, president of the UEA Islamic Society, said: 'That the university has made this move with no consultation on the eve of Ramadan and the exam period is insulting to Muslim students.

'The lack of longer term solutions on offer after working positively for two years is shocking.'

A petition has been set up to 'stop UEA from abolishing Muslim Prayer Spaces' and a 'prayer in the square' protest is taking place at 1pm at the UEA square on Friday.

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Jo Swo, Students' Union Welfare, Community and Diversity Officer at the UEA Students' Union, said: 'We would remind the university of its duties under the Equality Act 2010 and urge it to get around the table to find a positive solution to the issue.

'We've repeatedly warned that growing students numbers without growing appropriate facilities risks damaging the student experience and this is a classic example of being proved right about that risk.'

A spokesperson for UEA said: 'The university is in ongoing discussions with the student Islamic Society, the Muslim Chaplain and others to ensure we can provide appropriate faith provision on campus.

'We have proposed a temporary solution of using UEA's Multi Faith Centre and the Blackdale prayer room will continue to be available during evenings.

'We are committed to ensuring that there is no break in provision for students wishing to use our facilities, including during Ramadan, during the exam period and during development works over the summer.

'The University is very grateful for the input of all stakeholders into the ongoing consultation about this matter. A working group will meet on Friday to discuss arrangements further.'

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