CAIRO – A London University may become the first in Britain to ban alcohol from areas of its campus, considering selling alcohol as an issue of "cultural sensitivity" among students; 20 per cent of whom are Muslims.
“There are students who do come from a tradition that says alcohol is evil and they need to feel that they have a place at London Metropolitan University,” Prof Malcolm Gillies of London Metropolitan University said at a conference of university administrators in Manchester, The Telegraph reported.
“They don’t have to feel that this is an alcoholic environment, we are an educational environment, we are not seeking to push particular cultural or gastronomic values, we meet the needs of our students as they actually are.”
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Prof Gillies, an eminent Australian music scholar, said that the suggestion was consulted with staff and students about creating alcohol-free areas on the university’s two campuses.
It is expected that the informal dry areas will be created within the next six months.
Not only Muslim students were concerned about alcohol.
Prof Gillies said that alcohol was considered “immoral experience” by a high percentage of students.
"It's a negative experience - in fact an immoral experience - for a high percentage of our students," he told the Times Higher Education
"And given that around our campuses you have at least half a dozen pubs within 200 meters, I can't see there is such a pressing reason to be cross-subsidizing a student activity which is essentially the selling of alcohol."
Gillies also told the conference that universities needed to be more cautious in their portrayal of sex than in the past.
"We've got a younger generation that are often exceedingly conservative, and we need to be much more cautious about sex too," he said.
Many female Muslim students were taken to university by a close male relative.
"Their student experience is going to be different from someone who is gorging out in the Chocoholics Society or someone who is there to have a ... libidinous time.
"How will we service the changing balance of our students unless we ourselves evolve?"
The university plans were widely welcomed by Muslim students, the Methodist Church and anti-alcoholism campaigners.
Muslim students wanted universities to be inclusive so that students "from all walks of life can come and share experiences," Alaa Alsamarrai, the vice-president of student affairs for the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, told The Guardian.
"Alcohol is a barrier to many Muslim students participating in freshers' events and often in society activities, so we are in support of moves to have alcohol-free zones and events," she said.
"However, if a student wants to drink, we don't want to ban them from doing that."
Alcohol free areas were also welcomed by Paul Morrison, Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church.
“We think that local communities should be able to choose how alcohol is consumed in their areas because in some places it is perfectly acceptable but in other places it is antisocial,” Morrison told The Telegraph.
"If there is a consensus among a local community to provide alcohol-free areas then we support that.”
Emily Robinson, Director of Campaigns at Alcohol Concern, agreed.
“The problem at the moment is that for a lot of people alcohol at university isn’t so much a choice as an expectation.
“Anything that will create a culture where people don’t feel forced to drink would be a great step forward.”
Islam takes an uncompromising stand in prohibiting intoxicants. It forbids Muslims from drinking or even selling alcohol.
The general rule in Islam is that any beverage that get people intoxicated when taken is unlawful, both in small and large quantities, whether it is alcohol, drugs, fermented raisin drink or something else.
According to surveys, a quarter of people in England aged 16 and over is classified as hazardous drinkers.
Alcohol is blamed for the death of 195,000 people in the 27-nation EU every year and more than 10,000 deaths were due to alcohol-related road accidents, with young people especially at risk, EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou has said.
It is also blamed for 7.4 percent of all ill-health and premature death in the EU, a 2006 EU-commissioned reported said.
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