LONDON – A sudden decision by a British university to shut down an Islamic center used for performing daily prayers is shocking Muslim students.
"When I first heard about the plan last Friday I went straight to the students' union to ask for details,” Mohammed Patel, of the Islamic Society, told the BBC News Online.
"No-one there knew about the move and no-one in the university's Islamic Society had been informed.”
The University of East Anglia has shut down an Islamic center used by Muslim students to perform prayers.
"It's a pretty shocking way to handle it,” Patel said.
The university defended the shutdown, arguing that the prayer facility was always temporary and that permission had now lapsed.
“I can understand they are unhappy but there has been no ambiguity," Professor Tom Ward, one of the pro-vice chancellors at the university, said.
“The center was always going to have to move at the end of the planning permission. The facilities were always temporary and we've come to the end of that time.”
The University of East Anglia is a public research university based in Norwich, United Kingdom.
It provides a chaplaincy center for quiet reflection, worship and conversation between students and staff of all faiths.
The chaplaincy includes a common room, a quiet room for individuals or small groups and a large meeting room for group meetings and religious services.
Prayers facilities for Muslim students are available in the UEA’s Islamic Prayer Center on campus, according to the university’s website.
Justifying the decision, University officials argue that they want Muslim students to join prayers at the multi-faith chaplaincy.
"We are adapting the building so that space in the chaplaincy can be used especially so that separate rooms can accommodate men and women," Professor Ward said.
"The answer is to use the multi-faith building where each should accommodate the others."
But Muslim students complain that the chaplaincy room was too small to accommodate their Friday prayers.
"We already share the chaplaincy especially when students do not have time to reach the Islamic Center on the campus to pray,” Patel said.
"The space there, however, is too small to accommodate those who want to attend Friday prayers."
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority, estimated at nearly 2.5 million.
There are 400,000 Muslim students in British schools, according to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).There are nearly 90,000 Muslim students studying in higher education institutions in the European country.
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