Newham College, 1995 – City University, 2010

Yesterday’s post by habibi about activities carried out by the City University Islamic Society reminds me of something that Ed Husain wrote in his book, The Islamist: Why I joined radical Islam in Britain, what I saw inside and why I left (Penguin Books, 2007).

To recall, habibi said the following:

At City University in London, some Muslim students have refused to use a new multifaith prayer room. The university closed the old Islamic prayer room and encouraged Muslims to use the new one following an alleged attack on Muslim students last year….. These students disagree …. They do not want to share space with worshippers of any other faith. So they set themselves down in Northampton Square for prayers.

Below, I copy an extract from Ed Husain’s book (pp. 141-3):

Newham [College] had no prayer room. We knew that prayer was something all Muslims held dear and would easily unite behind. Our first confrontation with the management, therefore, was to demand a prayer room. Their reluctance to provide one led to accusations that the principal of the college was Jewish and did not want to see Muslims at prayer.

‘They slaughter us in Bosnia, expel us from our homes in Palestine, and refuse us the basic right to pray in Britain,’ I would say to students in the corridors. Again, just as Hizb [ut Tahrir] had trained us, we were linking local issues to global politics. We needed to accustom Muslims to talking and thinking about the wider Muslim world, for it was from there that our state would rise. Soon our arguments spread like wildfire among the students. Newham management was increasingly perceived as anti-Muslim and racist…..

The Islamic Society … went from strength to strength. They organised formal weekly talks while we held spontaneous public sessions almost every day in packed canteens, common rooms and even corridors….

Soon our success in Newham became known in the local community. We could, at an hour’s notice, gather a crowd of nearly a hundred at the main gates of the college…. Either Majid or I would stand on a bench at the college steps … and then someone would shout from the back, ‘Takbeeeer!’ To which the crowd responded with a resounding ‘Allahu Akbar!’

I wonder how similar it actually is.