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Muslim schoolboy made to halt praying by teacher who saw it as ‘act of defiance’

25th Feb 2022

Harun Nasrullah

A 12-year-old Muslim schoolboy was left “terrified” after a teacher at a secondary academy in London allegedly grabbed him and forced him to stop praying.

Thaher Tarawneh asked for an alternate quiet corner at Ark Soane Academy in Acton after the prayer room was closed, but was allegedly told this was “not a religious school.”

Instead, the boy and some of his classmates decided to pray outside. As some other pupils left the playground, he claims a staff member abruptly told him “to stop at once”, “manhandled” him and grabbed his blazer, which he was standing on as a prayer mat.

He was sent home and made to sign a false statement in which staff substituted words like “grab” with “guided”.
His dad Muhammed Tarawneh said: “We were called by the teacher in question later that day and she explained that she was a Muslim and that Thaher shouldn’t be praying there. We try to educate our children to have certain beliefs and it should not be up to any member of staff to try to challenge them. It is my understanding that the other children ran away because they were terrified of this staff member shouting.”

He added “Thaher knows to not stop his prayer unless there is something urgent. So for this member of staff to interrupt that and then proceed to manhandle my son, it’s not acceptable.”
The family is currently discussing withdrawing their son from school.

Thaher’s parents asked to see CCTV footage from the incident but their request was denied.

Elizabeth Znider, a family friend, claims the headteacher treated his lunchtime prayer as an ‘act of defiance’ that could lead to expulsion.

She said, “They have a prayer room, three quarters of the schools pupils are Muslim and it is a legal requirement to be able to practise your religion freely. Thaher’s mum has had several calls about how bright and brilliant her child is and now suddenly the tables have turned and this act of prayer is being made out to be an act of defiance.

“Thaher says he was forced into signing a statement where what he was saying was not what was being typed out. He used the word grab and they wrote down guided. He’s terrified now. He was really, really upset and he said that he felt he had no choice but to agree to the statement because he was told it would create a huge problem for him if he didn’t.’

In a statement Matthew Neuberger, Principal of Ark Soane Academy, said, “We investigated the incident when it was brought to our attention, including reviewing all available evidence and interviewing all involved.

“A formal complaint has now been made, and normal procedures will be followed to ensure this is dealt with fairly and appropriately.

“Our school prides itself on the support we provide to students of all faiths and none, and we are committed to providing an inclusive environment for everyone.”

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

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