My son’s school’s refusal to allow Muslim students to pray freely
On 06 January 2020, the IRU received a report from a concerned father named Ibrahim*. Ibrahim expressed his worries regarding his son’s school and their refusal to allow Muslim students to pray freely. As a result of the restrictions, his son resorted to praying outdoors in the rain, where he would still be followed by teachers who prevented him from completing his prayers. On the rare occasion a teacher would offer Ibrahim’s son a classroom to pray, senior members of staff would intervene and instruct the teacher to deny such space.
Prayer constitutes one of the five pillars of Islam and the act is sacrosanct for adherents of the faith. As a result, refusing a Muslim the right to pray can have serious implications for their spiritual and mental wellbeing.
The IRU assisted Ibrahim throughout the school’s complaint procedure, which included drafting his complaint. This letter listed his grievances with the institution’s conduct, and included practical solutions on how this could be rectified. Using key legislation, such as the Equality Act 2010, and the Department of Education’s guidelines, the IRU asserted the importance of permitting Muslim students to carry out their prayers at their prescribed times.
Upon reviewing Ibrahim’s complaint, the school introduced a new policy where meeting rooms can now be utilised as a prayer facility for students of all age groups.
On 23 January 2020, the IRU received an email from a mother called Saira* on behalf of her son, Abdullah*. Abdullah was refused the right to pray in his school on the grounds that they could not provide multi-faith facilities for students. It was made clear from the beginning that Saira did not wish for a room to be created but merely a space for students to pray.
The IRU supported Saira throughout the appeals process by drafting her complaint as well as a member of the team accompanying her throughout the appeal hearing. Following the meeting, the IRU successfully convinced the school of the importance for children to be able to practise their faith freely during school hours. As a result, students at the school are now able to access a quiet room for all their prayers.
* Names changed for the purpose of this article