Row over Muslim prayer space at City University

A 'prayer room protest' at City University (Photo: CULSU City Offline 2010)

A 'prayer room protest' at City University (Photo: CULSU City Offline 2010)

A leading London university has stopped allocating space for a Muslim prayer group after students refused to allow staff to oversee the content of sermons.

The decision by City University to stop offering space on its premises for the Friday prayers has been attacked by students as unjust, but the university said that it was made "despite repeated requests and assurances" for students to "work with the university's Imam to ensure that the process for selecting students is transparent and that the content of sermons is made known to the university in advance and is freely available afterwards for those unable to attend".

"The University needs to be assured of the quality and appropriateness of what is being delivered," said a City spokesman, adding that the university had identified nearby locations off campus at which students could attend Friday prayers.

"The information from those students leading Friday prayers was not forthcoming.

"Whilst this was a disappointment, the university could not continue to condone an activity taking place on its premises where it cannot exercise reasonable supervision."

According to the group Muslim Voices on Campus, which is campaigning against the decision, City restricted the allocation of space at the end of last year. "They requested that khateebs (those delivering the sermon) submit the sermons beforehand to be screened to ensure it 'complies with university policy'," said the group.

"When you start submitting your sermons to be monitored and scrutinised then there's a chance for it to be dictated what's allowed and what's not allowed," the group's leader told the BBC.

The university's action comes three years after a report that revealed that City's Islamic society was promoting a "hard-line Islamist ideology" that led to "the intimidation and harassment of staff, students and members of minority".

The research, by extremism monitor Quilliam, warned that the actions of the ISoc – including comments by its president calling for kaffirs (unbelievers) to be killed and for adulterers to be stoned – had "scared" Jewish students and moderate Muslims.

Last updated: 12:01pm, February 22 2013