The Islamic Centre at the University of East Anglia is to be axed without consultation. This is a dangerous time for Norwich as the Islamophobic EDL have recently announced their plan to march through Norwich city centre in October and the university planning to close the only Islamic Centre in the city.
The university's decision to close the Islamic Centre revolves around the lease on the many semi-permanent buildings around campus, only one of which houses the Islamic Centre, which is to expire this year. The university’s renewal of the lease has not included the continuation of the existing or provision of a new Islamic Centre on campus.
In way of a compromise, the University has proposed that the Muslim community, who make use of the Islamic Centre, will now be able to use the multi-faith chaplaincy on campus. For a sizeable community already pushed for space and with specific needs to be met, however, this does not even come close to an adequate replacement.
As well as for prayer, the centre is used for events such as Ramadan and is both a social space and an educational space. It not only draws in Muslim students, of which there are currently 532 registered on campus, but it also encourages an understanding of a faith, which is unfortunately often grossly misunderstood in society today.
And, of course, the positive impact of the Islamic Centre reaches beyond the University and into the wider community. In a Christian dominated city like Norwich, famous for its churches, the importance of facilitating for minority faith groups cannot be emphasized enough. Religions such as Islam should be given more and more opportunities for establishing a presence in society, not having these opportunities taken away.
For some students at UEA, the University’s recent actions will echo strongly those of last October with the closure of the school of music without consultation. The decision to close the Islamic Centre has come from nowhere and the lack of transparency in the University’s decision-making process is becoming a worrying trend.
The UEA is in a strong financial position, but still continues to justify cutting services without discourse with students or staff. The UEA is clearly a University controlled by its management and not its students; valuing economic growth and profit over the true value of education and its ability to meet the needs of the wider community. Religions already scapegoated in society should not be being sidelined by Universities, particularly by those based in cities with an already small Muslim presence.
Despite the University announcing the proposed closure at an awkward time of exams at the end of the academic year, it has sparked the beginnings of a passionate campaign. ‘Save the UEA Islamic Centre: Protect Faith on Campus’ are working with the Students Union to produce a petition and the fight against the University’s decision looks to continue into the new academic year.
For more information and to sign the petition please visit UEAStudent Blog.
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