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Renowned British Human Rights Lawyer Expresses Concern About Prayer Ban At London School

20.04.2024 01:42

Fahad Ansari worries school board ‘essentially indoctrinating them (Muslim students) to be afraid of challenging the state, to be afraid of asserting their Islamic values and identity’

Fahad Ansari criticized a prayer ban imposed in March 2023 at the London-based Michaela Community School, where half of the students are Muslim.

The renowned human rights lawyer spoke to Anadolu about the ban that was recently approved by the city's high court.

Ansari highlighted the school's links to far-right figures, particularly former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, emphasizing her role as a founder of the school and board chair until 2018.

"We're worried about the deeper agenda that's in place in schools like this," Ansari said, noting Braverman was speaking at the "National Conservatism" conference in Brussels on April 16, the day the ban was approved.

"If you dig deeper, you'll see that the school is also connected to Michael Gove and to many other individuals who are in the far right of the Conservative Party that's currently ruling this country," he said.

Ansari questioned the school's true intentions, suggesting it may aim to suppress Muslim students' expression of their faith and identity.

Sharing his concerns about the school wanting to repress Muslim children, he said: "Are they (school board) essentially indoctrinating them (Muslim students) to be afraid of challenging the state, to be afraid of asserting their Islamic values and identity, and to confronting authoritarianism and fascism?"

'All this effort to stop a girl praying for a few minutes"

Ansari cited headmistress Katharine Birbalsingh's statements that the decision was "a victory for all schools" and, "If parents don't like Michaela, they don't have to send their children."

He criticized the school's management for its lack of empathy toward Muslim students, contrasting it with the hypothetical scenario of a Jewish student being denied religious practices.

Ansari underscored broader societal implications, pointing out a growing trend of authoritarianism and diminishing rights and freedoms, particularly for Muslims in the UK.

Stating that it is not normal in a society that prides itself on tolerance and equality, he said: "All of this money, time, and resources are spent to stop a girl praying for a few minutes during her lunch break."

He highlighted increasing pressures on Muslim students to suppress their religious and political expression, especially support for Palestine.

Ansari condemned the double standards in UK society: "For Ukraine, assemblies and fundraisers were organized, but for Palestine, people are not allowed to speak about it."

He warned of the long-term effects of marginalizing Muslims, leading to a generation unable to express themselves in an environment that should encourage dialogue and debate.

Criticizing the school system, Ansari said: "Schools are meant to be places to educate, to learn, to enlighten people, and to discuss ideas. If you're not willing to even have a conversation, then you need to stop calling yourself a school and call yourself and a place of indoctrination."

Strictest school in UK

Braverman, one of the founders of Michaela Community School, visited Israel at the beginning of April and had previously argued that waving the Palestinian flag and chanting slogans in support of Palestine could be considered support for terrorism "on a case-by-case basis."

The management of Michaela Community School, which is considered the strictest school in the UK, imposed the ban in March 2023 after 30 students prayed in the schoolyard, laying their jackets on the ground.

A Muslim student, whose name was not disclosed for legal reasons, sued the Michaela Community School, stating that the ban on prayer at school affected his faith and violated his right to freedom of religion.

*Writing by Muhammed Yasin Gungor -

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