Muslim student loses High Court challenge against ‘Britain’s strictest school’

A Muslim student has lost her High Court battle against a ban on prayer rituals at a top-performing north London school, previously labelled as Britain’s strictest.

The pupil, who remains anonymous, launched legal action against Michaela Community School in Brent, alleging the policy was discriminatory and “uniquely” impacted her faith due to its ritualised nature.

She contended that the school’s position on prayer one of the five pillars of Islam unlawfully infringed upon her right to religious freedom and was “the kind of discrimination which makes religious minorities feel alienated from society”.

The school, established and led by headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh, a former government social mobility tsar, defended its prayer policy, citing death and bomb threats linked to religious observance on site.

However, in a written ruling on Tuesday, Mr Justice Linden dismissed the pupil’s arguments against the prayer rituals ban. The judge did uphold the student’s challenge to a decision to temporarily exclude her from the school.

The pupil’s lawyers argued in a January hearing that she was making a “modest” request to be allowed to pray for around five minutes at lunch time, on dates when faith rules required it, but not during lessons.

The school’s legal team informed the London court that students observed praying outside were part of a “concerted campaign” on social media against the free school’s religious policy, which included an online petition that garnered thousands of signatures before it was taken down.

They further argued that the governors and headteacher at the school, which has around 700 students approximately half identifying as Muslim possess “a margin of latitude, discretion or judgment” in setting its policies.

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