Stop Newcastle University Closing the Muslim Prayer Space (in King George VI Building)
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We, the executive committee of Newcastle University Islamic Society, have been informed by the Head of Wellbeing Services at Newcastle University, that the Muslim Prayer Space in the King George VI Building - a dedicated facility for worship for over 30 years - is to be closed by the university by the end of July 2017. This has been done without any consultation or input from the Muslim student body.
The reason they have given us is that asbestos has been discovered in the ducts of the rooms, but once this has been removed, the prayer space shall be closed to “accommodate for their new School of Pharmacy”. However, no alternative space has been provided, and while they state they shall “explore the possibility of finding and or creating a suitable, permanent venue", the discussions of finding a bigger space to accommodate more students has been an on-going issue for many years and has yet to be resolved – so what makes them think it will be found now?
The reason for this appeal therefore, is for a number of reasons:
1. With around 400 actively registered students every year, the Newcastle University Islamic Society is the biggest society on campus. This does not include other Muslims on campus who have not registered with ISoc, who still use the space (estimated more than 2000 students). To therefore close a facility that caters for their spiritual needs (five daily prayer) and not provide any realistic alternative shows a lack of care and value towards the Muslim students.
2. One of the key factors that attracted many of the Muslim International and UK Students to attending Newcastle University was because of the good reputation of the ISoc and the dedicated prayer space - a prayer space that has an international reputation of helping facilitate and ease the transition for many students, due to the close connection with the local Muslim community. This is reflected by the university, as on a number of pages of the Newcastle University Website, the university has used the Islamic Society AND the prayer room as specific marketing tools to encourage International Students from certain Muslim countries to join this university (For instance, on the page http://www.ncl.ac.uk/international/country/jordan/#overview under “Student Life”, it states: “The Islamic Society maintains the prayer room on campus, and arranges regular lectures, study circles and social events.”). To therefore take this away will have a huge impact and effect on the students.
3. By closing down the prayer space, the university is sending out a message to its Muslim students - they are taking away a prayer space that has been part of this university for over 30 years, which may indicate that they do not want to engage with the Muslims students and the wider Muslim community in a conducive manner that brings about harmony and equality.
4. If a new multi-faith space is provided, what is the cause or reason to change it from being managed by the SU and ISoc, to being managed by the university? What has caused this decision to be made? Rather than expanding the same space that was given to more than 30 year ago to accommodate the increasing number of Muslims students, they are taking it away!
Please sign this petition if you feel the university is not justified in closing a Muslim Prayer Space that has been part of the university’s history for over 30 years.
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