High Court Rules Against Muslim Student’s Prayer Challenge at Michaela Community School

High Court Rules Against Muslim Student's Prayer Challenge at Michaela Community School

Lonon (Parliament News) – High Court rules against a Muslim student’s challenge to a prayer ban at Michaela Community School in London, upholding the school’s policy.

A north London school headed by “Britain’s strictest headteacher” has succeeded in a High Court battle with a student over its controversial prayer prohibition. Michaela Community School met a legal challenge from a Muslim pupil over the insistence she had been distinguished against based on her religion.

According to the Standard, the Wembley school, directed by headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh, charged the crackdown in March last year, insisting its procedure promoted “inclusion and social cohesion between pupils”.

Did the High Court Make the Right Decision?

Delivering his ruling on Tuesday, Mr Justice Linden expressed the school had been entitled to set a ban on “prayer rituals” and the student chose the school comprehending that it had strict rules. He stated that while the ban would be harmful to Muslim students, it was “a proportionate norm of achieving the legitimate aims” of the school.

Was Suspension Justified in Prayer Dispute?

The judge also discovered that the headteacher had been justified in discontinuing the student, based on the account of a teacher that she had been “ extremely harsh and defiant”, as the prayer row persisted to grow. He stated a second suspension had not been explained, as the student was not offered the chance to give her account.

Responding in a statement on X on Tuesday, Ms Birbalsingh stated the decision was a “victory for all schools.” She said: “A school should be free to do what is right for the pupils it serves.”

Did the School’s Policy Promote Inclusion or Exclusion?

Ms Birbalsingh, who founded the Free School in 2014 with the support of then-Education Secretary Michael Gove, has acquired the nickname “Britain’s strictest headteacher” Strict rules are levied on pupils including silence in corridors and detention for forgetting a ruler, while Year 7 pupils are reportedly put through a “boot camp” on their behaviour.

The school, which has been ranked ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, has won recognition from a string of Tory politicians including former Prime Minister Liz Truss and current Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, and Ms Birbalsingh was granted a CBE in 2020. She became a government social mobility tsar in 2021 and has been an unreserved critic of “woke” culture.

The High Court described the Muslim pupil, who cannot be named, requested to pray for five minutes at lunchtime, on days when faith rules needed it, but not during lessons. She declared the ban on prayer rituals is “the kind of prejudice which makes religious minorities feel alienated from society”.

The student also challenged two judgments to temporarily suspend her from school. But the school urged its stance on prayer was explained and “proportionate” as it has faced death and bomb threats connected to religious observance on site.

Is Michaela Community School’s Approach Appropriate?

The school, where about half of the 700 pupils are Muslim, argues some of the students have faced peer tension over religious adherence. In March 2023, up to 30 students started praying in the school’s yard, utilising blazers to kneel on.

Lawyers for the school stated students seen praying outside contributed to a “concerted campaign” on social media over the school’s policy on religion. The school also state it has been targeted with death threats, abuse, “false” allegations of Islamophobia, and a “bomb hoax”. After the court hearing ended, Ms Birbalsingh informed The Sunday Times she believes the school should “be allowed to be secular”.

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.