UEA permanently closes Muslim prayer spaces a week before Ramadan

The current facility in Lecture Theatre 2 will be turned into a ‘library corridor’

UEA has shut its Muslim prayer rooms the week before the start of the holy Islamic month of Ramadan. The news comes just a year after closing the previous facility.

Whilst the reasons for the closure are yet to be confirmed, it has been alleged these measures are being taken to create a corridor which joins the lecture theatre building to the library next door.

Muslim students have also been told they are unable to use their only other prayer facilities in Blackdale Building, which is used for Friday Prayers, from tomorrow onwards as part of a temporary measure to alleviate an “exam space crisis“.

It has been alleged that students who use the prayer room found out about the plans through “a cleaner making small talk”. In a statement, UEA commented: “The university is in ongoing discussions with the student Islamic Society, the Muslim Chaplain and others to ensure we can provide appropriate faith provision on campus.”

They added: “We have proposed a temporary solution of using UEA’s Multi-Faith Centre and the Blackdale prayer room will continue to be available during evenings. We are committed to ensuring that there is no break in provision for students wishing to use our facilities, including during Ramadan, during the exam period and during development works over the summer.”

In retaliation to this, Jo Swo, Welfare, Community and Diversity officer at UEA SU, released a statement, saying: “I am absolutely disgusted and appalled at the University, who pour all their resources into nice buildings, statues and surveys to show student satisfaction, but have failed to provide basic facilities for the Muslim students, sending a clear message of what matters more to UEA.”

She also released a second statement, uploaded as a blog post to the SU website, stating: “The SU has repeatedly warned that growing student numbers without growing appropriate facilities risks damaging the student experience and this is a classic example of being proved right about that risk.

“We would urge the University to redouble its efforts to find an appropriate solution.”

Whilst the university was quick to suggest students of Islamic faith use of the multi-faith centre, several have argued this space is not suitable. This is because there are an estimated 1,000 Muslim students at UEA, not even 100 of them would be able to fit in the multi-faith centre for Friday prayers.

The Islamic Society have started a petition in protest against the planned changes, which has already attracted 1,200 signatures. There are provisional plans for Friday prayers to take place in the Square tomorrow, in lieu of any dedicated space.

Ramadan is the month where Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, consuming no water or food. This year it falls during summer, meaning that there will be several days with over 17 hours of daylight. This can prove challenging for some who take part, so it means a lot to them if they can do it with others as an act of community.