Plans to ban the niqab Muslim face veil at a Birmingham college were in tatters yesterday, Friday, after student campaigning forced management into a humiliating climb down.
The astonishing U-turn by Birmingham Metropolitan College bosses came less than a day before a planned mass demonstration at the city centre campus.
Hundreds of students, Muslim and non-Muslim, were expected to demonstrate outside the college after a staggering 8,000 signatures against the ban were collected in just 24 hours.
After hearing that management had retreated, groups of students and supporters gathered outside the college yesterday to celebrate their victory.
Aliya Abshir, a young woman who wears the niqab, was a health and social care student at the college last year.
“I’m really happy with this result. It shows that if we protest we can change things,” she told Socialist Worker.
“I can’t understand why they tried to ban the niqab. I wore it last year. We have the right – it’s part of our religion.
“The niqab doesn’t harm anyone. We always wear our id and people know who we are.”
She was echoed by Aysha Latifa from the Muslimapride organisation.
“We’re glad they have listened to the students. I think the pressure of the protest and the nationwide media attention has forced the college to back down,” she said.
“We hope this encourages students to mobilise around other issues.”
College principal Dame Christine Braddock announced she was abandoning the new “security policy” late on Thursday night.
In usual management speak, she said, “We have listened to the views of our students and we are confident that this modification to our policies will meet the needs of all of our learners and stakeholders.”
But her bland statement could not hide the fact that the students had scored a massive victory.
The successful campaign in Birmingham should serve as a warning to college bosses everywhere – students will not allow their Muslim friends to be scapegoated.
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