Muslim student loses prayer ban challenge

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Desk report: A Muslim student at a London school has lost a High Court challenge against its ban on prayer rituals.

Michaela School in Brent was taken to court by the girl over the policy, which she argued was discriminatory.

The non-faith state secondary school previously told the High Court that allowing prayer rituals risked “undermining inclusion” between pupils.

The school’s founder and head teacher Katharine Birbalsingh said the ruling was a “victory for all schools”.

In an 83-page written judgment dismissing the student’s case, Mr Justice Linden said: “The claimant at the very least impliedly accepted, when she enrolled at the school, that she would be subject to restrictions on her ability to manifest her religion.”

‘Free to do what is right’

About half the school’s roughly 700 pupils are Muslim, the court previously heard. Its pupils are expected to adhere to strict rules including focusing on teachers extensively during lessons and remaining silent in corridors, as well as observing restrictions on uniforms.

In March 2023, up to 30 students began praying in the school’s yard, using blazers to kneel on, the High Court heard.

The school introduced the ban in the same month due to concerns about a “culture shift” towards “segregation between religious groups and intimidation within the group of Muslim pupils”, the court was told.

Michaela is a free school and is therefore independent of its local authority and exempt from teaching the national curriculum.

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