Muslim Student Moves UK Court Against Ban On Prayer In School; Loses Legal Bid

New Delhi: A Muslim student lost a legal battle against her UK school, which had prohibited on-site prayer rituals. Citing religious freedom, the muslim student had contested the decision of Michaela Community School. According to reports, she had alleged discrimination that uniquely impacted her faith due to its ritualized nature. 

She argued that the school’s ban on on-site prayer violated her right to religious freedom and contributed to the alienation of religious minorities. The northwest London school is known for its academic excellence and strict regulations. According to the reports, the school justified its policy which it had implemented the previous year, in response to students praying in the yard, utilizing blazers as kneeling pads. 

The school cited concerns regarding a potential ‘culture shift’ towards religious segregation and intimidation among Muslim students prompted the enactment of the new rules. In a written judgment, Judge Thomas Linden rejected the student’s claims, asserting that by enrolling at the school, she implicitly accepted restrictions on expressing her faith. He deemed the prayer policy proportional, stating that its objectives outweighed any adverse effects on Muslim students’ rights. 

Headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh hailed the court’s decision as a victory for schools’ autonomy, emphasizing that schools should not be compelled to alter their practices based on the preferences of a single student and her parent. She said, “a school should be free to do what is right for the pupils it serves. The court’s decision is therefore a victory for all schools. Schools should not be forced by one child and her mother to change its approach simply because they have decided they don’t like something at the school.”

According to reports, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan echoed support for the ruling, affirming that school leaders are best suited to make decisions for their institutions, and praising Michaela as an outstanding school.