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Katherine Birbalsingh

Indian origin principal wins UK case on school prayer ban

April 17, 2024

An Indian-origin school principal, widely known as “Britain’s strictest headmistress”, expressed her satisfaction with a recent UK High Court ruling that upheld her school’s prohibition of prayer rituals, despite facing legal opposition from a Muslim pupil who alleged discrimination.

Katherine Birbalsingh, who hails from Indo-Guyanese heritage, staunchly defended the ban at Michaela School, a “secular” secondary school located in Wembley, north London. The school’s policy of not providing a designated prayer room stems from its commitment to fostering an inclusive environment conducive to learning, as asserted by Birbalsingh.

She underscored the potential divisiveness and disruption to the school’s ethos that could arise from allowing prayer on its premises. Additionally, she emphasized the risk of undermining the school’s disciplinary policies. Justice Thomas Linden, in an exhaustive 80-page judgment, endorsed the school’s position, affirming its prerogative to uphold its secular principles.

In the aftermath of the ruling, Birbalsingh lauded it as a triumph for educational institutions nationwide, emphasizing the importance of schools being empowered to make decisions aligned with their ethos and values. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the autonomy of headteachers in decision-making processes.

The High Court’s ruling deemed the prayer ban to be legally sound under both the European Convention on Human Rights and the Equality Act 2010. Despite expressing disappointment with the outcome, the Muslim pupil involved in the legal challenge has indicated her intention to redirect her focus towards academic pursuits.

Source: PTI

Also read: Gujarat University asks 7 foreign students to vacate hostel for overstaying after namaz dispute

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