Former, as well as current students, have all come together to “expose” the London Academy of Excellence (LAE) over their treatment of Muslim students via a campaign titled LAE Exposed.
Sources have revealed to MVSLIM that this “Islamophobic” treatment started all the way back in 2014 when prayer facilities were removed from the premises and students were forced to find other methods to complete their religious duties. However, as you can imagine, this was pretty difficult due to the lack of resources on hand, and after some students started praying outside in unfavourable weather conditions, it was obvious that this wasn’t going to be a long-term solution so they went to their teachers and asked for some space.
Rather than aiding the students with their request, the school came back with an “all-or-nothing” counter-proposal themselves which stated that they would have 1 hour a day at an allocated time slot to hold their prayers at an off-site room across the road at a “sky bar”… Hardly an appropriate space for prayers. They also added that “no congregations” were allowed during that time.
Not only that, but in the past, they also added terms and conditions to prayers that took place onsite, including students having to complete a register if they attended daily prayers, the actual prayers being monitored by members of staff and sermons forced to be recited in English.
A statement on the LAE website recently provided updates on the current prayer facilities made available by the school, stating that “the school fully recognises the importance of prayer to many of our students and has hired space a few minutes’ walk from the main school entrance.
“This space is being used by students of all faiths for reflection and/or prayer.”
This isn’t the only issue that has been plaguing LAE though. Sources behind the campaign have also revealed to us that even beyond the prayer facilities, teachers continued their “harassment of Muslim students” with multiple testimonies alleging that pupils were asked “invasive questions” such as: ‘When are you going to Syria?’ or ‘When will you become a jihadi bride?’
One student even recalled the moment their bag was searched for saying “salaam,” which means “hello.”
A teacher who previously worked at LAE spoke out of his own personal experiences at the college, as well as verifying the experiences of the alumni through his perspective as a member of staff.
“LAE used to invite Prevent [a counter-terrorism programme] in two to three times a year, you don’t even get as much mental health training as this which is probably more important. They used to say really strange things such as, ‘you need to watch out for small hints on what’s going on with your students that could be a form of radicalisation, watch out for signs which may tell you you’re students may go abroad and join ISIS’, ‘if they carry around a Quran, report it’, ‘if they say Allahu Akhbar, report it, it’s a form of radicalisation’.
“I was the only Muslim in a staff room full of 30-40 staff, if I voiced my opinion everyone would stare at me. I was marginalised, I just had to sit back and watch it.”
He continued: “I did see students praying in a sneaky way and if I were any other teacher I would have ran to the headteacher or the deputy-head to tell them that I saw students praying. But how could I do that? That would be completely wrong. I used to see students sneak into tiny closet rooms, they were obviously praying, no way was I going to tell anyone that these students were praying, I just let them do what they had to do.”
He also added that students would come to him and ask if they could pray in the corner and he would say yes, hoping they wouldn’t get caught.
He said that their replies used to make him emotional.
“Don’t worry sir if anyone says anything to you I’ll take the full blame,” they would tell him.
All this fear just to be able to pray?
This was just one of the many testimonies collected by the campaign – 30 were collected in total.
After the campaign went LIVE on Monday, CEO of Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), Azhar Qayum, spoke out on the issue, telling MVSLIM that the charity is dedicated to supporting the students with this concerning issue.
“MEND stands in solidarity with these brave victims who have come forward with their testimonies. We join their demand in seeking accountability; there can be no place for Islamophobia in our education system. There should now be an independent investigation into these allegations, coupled with an immediate redress for issues like the non-provision of prayer space,” he said.
LAE revealed that they were aware of the campaign but have dismissed it as merely an “allegation without foundation” as well as “malicious.”
We hope that the school takes the time to reflect on their actions, as well as their discriminatory training programmes because it is not acceptable to make Muslim students feel uncomfortable, especially in an establishment that prides itself on it’s ‘inclusivity’.