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HomeHeadline newsMuslim school student in London loses court challenge over prayer ban

Muslim school student in London loses court challenge over prayer ban

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A Muslim student’s legal challenge against a ban on prayer rituals at a leading London school was dismissed by a court on Tuesday. The case, centering on religious freedoms within schools, attracted nationwide interest.

The student, whose identity remains confidential, had filed a lawsuit against Michaela Community School in northwest London, arguing that the ban was discriminatory and adversely impacted her ability to practice her faith due to its ritualistic requirements.

She contended that the school’s policy of prohibiting prayer on campus violated her right to religious freedom and contributed to making religious minorities feel excluded from society. “The kind of discrimination which makes religious minorities feel alienated from society,” she had argued.

The school, which is state-funded but independently managed and known for its strict discipline and strong academic performance, maintained that the policy, established last year, was necessary. The BBC reported that concerns arose after numerous students began praying in the schoolyard, using their blazers as mats.

The school reportedly introduced the ban to prevent a “culture shift” that was leading to “segregation between religious groups and intimidation within the group of Muslim pupils.”

In his written ruling, Justice Thomas Linden rejected the student’s arguments, stating that by choosing to attend the school, she had accepted its rules, including those that restrict how she could manifest her faith. He found that the ban on prayer rituals was “proportionate” and that its aims and effectiveness in meeting them “outweigh” any “adverse effects” on the rights of Muslim pupils.

Katharine Birbalsingh, headteacher at Michaela Community School, responded to the verdict, saying, “A school should be free to do what is right for the pupils it serves.” She further wrote on X (formerly Twitter), “The court’s decision is therefore a victory for all schools. Schools should not be forced by one child and her mother to change their approach simply because they have decided they don’t like something at the school.”

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan also welcomed the ruling, saying, “Headteachers are best placed to make decisions in their school.”

“Michaela is an outstanding school and I hope this judgment gives all school leaders the confidence to make the right decisions for their pupils. The government has always been clear that heads are best placed to take decisions on what is permitted in their school on these matters, to balance the rights of all with the ethos of the school community – including in relation to whether and how to accommodate prayer. This judgment confirms this,” she said in a statement.

(AFP)

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