London Metropolitan University
London - Arabstoday
The students at London Metropolitan University said the prospective alcohol ban was “ill-advised and misleading”, demonising them and exacerbating “Islamophobia” at the university and in wider society.
They warned the proposals had created such ill-feeling amongst students that it is "only a matter of time" before a Muslim student is assaulted.
They accused Vice Chancellor Professor Malcolm Gillies of “immorally” using them as “scapegoats” in order to justify a decision not to renew a costly lease for the student bar.
Their comments, issued on behalf of the LMU Islamic Society and Shia Muslim Society, follow a suggestion from Prof Gillies that he was considering banning the sale of alcohol from parts of the university's two campuses.
This, he said, was an issue of “cultural sensitivity” resulting from a “high percentage” of students considering drinking “immoral”.
Earlier this month, he said: “There are students who do come from a tradition that stays alcohol is evil and they need to feel that they have a place at London Metropolitan University.
“They don’t have to feel that this is an alcoholic environment, we are an educational environment, we are not seeking to push particular cultural or gastronomic values, we meet the needs of our students as they actually are.”
In an open letter, students have now reprimanded Prof Gillies for failing to consult all students on any proposed alcohol ban and have demanded a retraction and an apology for his comments.
They said: “There has never been a demand for an alcohol ban on campus from Muslim or non-Muslim students.
“The Muslim population at London Met stands at approximately 20 per cent, so assuming all Muslims at the campus were in favour of the ban, this could not be imposed as it would go against the fundamental principal of democracy.”
They said the argument to ban alcohol on religious grounds had led to anti-Muslim feeling on campus and across the country and claimed it had led to confrontations in the student union.
“It is only a matter of time before a Muslim student is physically assaulted,” they said.
“We find your argument to ban alcohol on religious grounds baseless, divisive and irresponsible and we are concerned about the welfare of the students.
“Such an unreasonable proposal which clearly many non-Muslims view as an attack by Muslims against their way of life, is absolutely of no benefit to the Muslim students and the wider Muslim community at all.
“In fact it demonises them even more and it will be used as baseless evidence to show how Britain is becoming a ‘shariastate', particularly by far right groups such as the EDL who have already capitalised upon this and added it to their campaign against minority groups."
The societies added they believed the cultural issues were being used as an excuse to justify a potentially unpopular decision not to renew the bar’s lease.
They said: “To use Muslim students to justify cuts is not acceptable and certainly immoral.
“If the university finds that running the bars is not economically viable then you should put forward a ‘business case’ and not a ‘religious case’ to justify the closure of bars and the creation of an alcohol-free campus.
“Your undemocratic, ill devised and misleading remarks have caused tension within the university campus and in the wider society; therefore we demand a retraction of your comments and an unreserved apology.”
A spokeswoman from London Metropolitan University said Prof Gillies now plans to meet with members of the societies.
She said: "As a university with students drawn from a very wide range of cultures, ethnicities and religions, we recognise the different student experiences that we need to cater for at the University.
"London Met has no plans to implement a ‘blanket ban’ on alcohol across its campuses, rather it is about the very practical realities of a student life that may involve going to class in the morning and needing a place to work later in the day."
In an email to students last week Vice-Chancellor Gillies said: “My concern as your vice-chancellor is to create a supportive environment for all students. If we admit you as a student you need to feel that your views and beliefs are respected, and that you can concentrate on your studies.”
London Metropolitan University was founded in 2002. It has 30,000 students from 190 countries.