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Statement: Court decision to uphold Michaela’s Prayer Ban is a detriment to student well being and exposes rise in systemic islamophobia in UK schools.

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As the largest Muslim student representative body in the UK and Ireland, Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) condemns the recent High Court decision to uphold Michaela Community School’s prayer ban. This ban exposes how deeply entrenched Islamophobia is on a state level, reflected within the education system, effectively institutionalising Islamophobia through policy. Concerningly, our justice system has failed to fulfil its duty in advocating for equal rights, freedom of religion, and human rights. 

The consequences of these policies are grave, and the ban, which Headmistress Ms. Birbalsingh celebrates as a ‘victory for all schools,’ sets a dangerous precedent. Prayer is a fundamental pillar of the Muslim faith. The implications of denying this fundamental right not only prevents Muslim students from fulfilling their religious obligations but also extends far beyond religious practice; it negatively  impacts the mental and emotional welfare of students. According to FOSIS’ ongoing research, Muslim students attending schools, where prayer bans were implemented,  found themselves criminalised and demonised, perpetuated by a culture of marginalisation. An astounding 92% of Muslim FE students who reached out to FOSIS were targeted due to their Islamic beliefs and practices. In almost all cases, Muslim students reported being traumatised with long-lasting effects on their personal wellbeing. Prayer is a source of mental relaxation and stress relief, and so a ban on prayer that is conducted during pupils’ own recreational time is detrimental to the students’ individual liberty, mental health and wellbeing. 

The headteacher not only failed in her duty of care but the court has enabled such islamophobic practices to be institutionalised and thus failed in its duty to protect our freedom of religion and equal rights. This decision fails to address the holistic needs of Muslim students and contradicts inclusive education principles, which aim to remove barriers to learning. Under the guise of secularism, Muslim students are cornered into choosing between their faith or their futures. This is contrary to Britain’s celebration of diversity, tolerance, respect and inclusion. True inclusivity embraces and accommodates differences, fostering environments where all students can thrive authentically on the basis of the unique identities they bring to school. The school’s failure to provide a safe space and the court’s ruling inherently disadvantages Muslim students, fostering exclusion instead of inclusion. 

FOSIS remains committed to fighting all forms of Islamophobia and discrimination faced by Muslim students and calls for

  • Michaela Community School to prioritise safeguarding and well-being of its Muslim pupils, reflecting on the detrimental impact of this decision.
  • Michaela Community School to reverse its policy on banning prayer. 
  • Muslim Students and Muslim community to raise awareness on this issue sharing their positive experiences along with the #Right2Pray 
  • Muslim students, staff or parents at Michaela Community School and or any other school where there are similar issues and wish to take action are urged to get in touch with FOSIS via [email protected]

Muslim Students or ex-students who have had similar experiences are urged to anonymously share their experiences via the form here as part of our efforts to raise awareness about this issue.