Muslim student at a ‘Britain’s school’ loses High Court challenge to prayer ban

RELIGIONS NEWS AGENCY (REDNA) – A Muslim student at a school dubbed Britain’s strictest has lost a High Court challenge against its ban on prayer rituals.

Mirror reported the pupil, who cannot be named, took legal action against Michaela Community School in Brent, north west London, claiming the policy was discriminatory and “uniquely” affects her faith due to its ritualised nature.

She alleged that the school’s stance on prayer – one of the five pillars of Islam – was “the kind of discrimination which makes religious minorities feel alienated from society”, a judge was told.

The pupil’s lawyers previously said the “prayer ban” unlawfully breached her right to religious freedom, adding that it made her feel “like somebody saying they don’t feel like I properly belong here”.

The court was told the pupil, referred to only as TTT, is making a “modest” request to be allowed to pray for around five minutes at lunchtime, on dates when faith rules required it, but not during lessons.

The student also challenged allegedly unfair decisions to temporarily suspend her from school. The school’s lawyers claimed its prayer policy was “justified” and “proportionate” after it faced death and bomb threats linked to religious observance on site.

They added that the governors and headteacher at the school which has 700 pupils, about half of whom are Muslim, had “a margin of latitude, discretion or judgment” over its policies. During a two-day hearing, the school’s founder and headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh said on social media that it was defending its “culture and ethos” along with decisions to “maintain a successful and stable learning environment where children of all races and religions can thrive”.

Posting on X, formerly known as Twitter, she said the school decided “to stop prayer rituals when some pupils started them, against a backdrop of events including violence, intimidation and appalling racial harassment of our teachers”. The court was told that Ms Birbalsingh, a former government social mobility tsar, first introduced the policy in March last year, with it being backed by the governing body in May – allegedly “on the basis of misinformation and errors”.

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