Birmingham : Muslim students have been banned from wearing religious veils into a college because of fears regarding security.
Teenagers at Birmingham Metropolitan College have been told to remove any items of clothing covering their faces so they are 'easily identifiable at all times'. But while some students welcomed the move, arguing it keeps them safer, others called it 'disgusting'. The ban of the niqab has caused some female students enroll at different college. News of the policy, which also requires students to remove hats and hoodies, was broken to those who were starting at the college last week.
Student Imaani Ali, 17, said her 'freedom had been breached' by the rule. 'Me and another friend who wears the veil were only told we wouldn’t be allowed inside the college after we had enrolled,' she said.
'They haven’t provided us with another alternative. We said we would happily show the men at security our faces so they could check them against our IDs, but they won’t let us. 't’s a breach of my freedom and I feel discriminated against. This is my religion, it is what I believe in. I don’t really want to go to a place that doesn’t accept me but I have no choice now.'
Another 17-year-old girl, who did not want to be named, was so upset at the policy that has she decided to look for another college place in the city.
She said: 'It’s disgusting. It is a personal choice and I find it absolutely shocking that this has been brought in at a college in Birmingham city centre when the city is so multicultural and so many of the students are Muslim.
'It upsets me that we are being discriminated against. I don’t think my niqab prevents me from studying or communicating with anyone. I’ve never had any problems in the city before.'
Suleman Hussain, 17, is taking A-level science at the college and strongly disagreed with the guidelines. He said: 'They’re not going to bring a bomb to college. They have come here to learn.'
The strict policy was announced days after the issue of wearing religious dress was brought up in parliament.
Kettering MP Philip Hollobone, who refuses to see constituents who will not lift their veils, raised the issue in a Private Member’s Bill, saying it 'goes against the basic part of the British way of life'.
Principal and chief executive of the college. Dame Christine Braddock, defended the policy, saying it had been in place for some time and had been developed to keep students safe.
She said: 'We have a very robust Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Policy at Birmingham Metropolitan College but we are committed to ensuring that students are provided with a safe and welcoming learning environment whilst studying with us.
'To ensure that safeguarding is a priority, we have developed our policy alongside student views to ensure we keep them safe. This needs individuals to be easily identifiable at all times when they are on college premises and this includes the removal of hoodies, hats, caps and veils so that faces are visible.
'All prospective and progressing students, as well as staff, have been advised of the policy, which will mean everyone allowed on the premises can understand and know each other in a safe environment.'
President of the Muslim Association of Britain, Omer El-Hamdoon, said the women at the college should accept the policy and abide by the rules. 'Some feel it is part of their religion but they need to be practical,' he said.
'If you go to a bank riding a motorbike, you are required to take your helmet off and identify yourself. And when it comes to sitting exams there is also an issue surrounding identification, because the college needs to know who is sitting the paper. Some feel it goes against their freedom of expression, but they should abide by the rules that are part of society.'
Other students at the college, which has several campuses across the West Midlands, said the ban makes them feel safer.
Chante Young, 17, who is studying business, said: 'You don’t know who is underneath it. 'You can’t see any of their face - only their eyes.'
Anna Dorj, 18, who is studying business, said: 'I believe it is good for security. You can’t see their face and it is hard to communicate with them.'
Ozayr Mir, 17, also studies business. He said: 'The rule is alright if it is for security reasons. They aren’t being asked to show off their body parts.'
Two weeks ago, a judge told a Muslim woman she had to remove her burkha in court before she could enter a plea.
The 21-year-old woman refused to reveal her face because there were men in the room and it was against her religious beliefs. Judge Peter Murphy said the principle of open justice overrode her beliefs, and warned there was a risk a different person could go into the dock pretending to be her.