Thursday, November 24, 2005

Students' fury at ban on hoodies and Islam veils

Students' fury at ban on hoodies and Islam veils
Daily Mail 24/11/05 - News section

A leading university has banned students from wearing Islamic headscarves and hooded tops in a security clampdown.

Imperial College London has ruled that 'hoodies' and veils which obscure the face pose a threat in the wake of the London bombings.

Guards have been ordered to challenge 'unrecognisable individuals' and remove them from campus if they refuse to expose their faces.

All staff and students at the university, which has a large Muslim population, have been told they must wear photo identity cards, and security staff must be able to compare their face to the picture.

But angry students are claiming the new code is an attack on their freedom.
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The code stipulates: "Clothing that obscures an individual's face is not allowed on any of the college's campuses.

"Employees and students should refrain from wearing clothing which obscures the face, such as a full or half veil, or hooded tops or scarves worn across the face."
It adds that the university will 'sympathetically consider' any student's complaint that the rules conflict with their religious belief.

Clamp down on extremists
The code has been introduced at Imperial following an order from Education Secretary Ruth Kelly that all universities clamp down on student extremists following the July terror attacks.
Muslim leaders were also asked to help 'identify and isolate' potential extremists on campuses.
Earlier this year, an academic report named Imperial College as one of 31 universities which has harboured terrorists.

The study, by security experts at Brunel University, claimed the institution provided a base for extreme Islamic organisations.
But Sarah Khatib, deputy president of Imperial's student union, said members are unhappy with the code.

"We all understand that the college wants to identify people, so we're trying to find a middle way," she said.

"People have happily accepted the fact that there is increased security and they have to wear their swipe cards.

"But they aren't happy about the hoodies. People like wearing them and when it's cold the hoods are necessary. They feel it is an infringement on freedom."

'Civil rights issue'
Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said it would be unfortunate if women who wear the burka out of religious conviction were penalised.

He said: "We hope the university would work out some sort of arrangement so if a student does believe part of their faith requirement is to wear one they can continue with their studies.

"In today's world we understand there has to be security, but measures should not be so drastic as to prevent Muslim women taking up higher education, especially as they are being encouraged to do so."

Imperial, one of the most prestigious universities in the country, is known for its maths and science degrees.

On campus yesterday, environmental technology student Nanna Baldvinsdottir said: "I think it's a civil rights issue.

"Even if it affects just three people, I think they have the right to go their own way, whatever their background.

"Its nobody's business. It's very imperialist to tell people what they can wear."

Earlier this year, a Muslim girl took her school to court after being told she could not wear traditional Islamic dress.

Court of Appeal judges ruled that the school had unlawfully excluded her, denying her the right to practise her religion or provide her with an education.