A major college has defended a ban on students wearing religious veils – saying it is for ‘security reasons’.
Birmingham Metropolitan College which has a Stourbridge Campus in Hagley Road and and also has campuses in Great Barr, Sutton Coldfield and Birmingham city centre, has said all face coverings including hoodies and caps must be removed so individuals are ‘easily identifiable at all times’.
The ban applies to all students, staff and visitors to the college. However, the ban on the niqab – a traditional veil that only leaves a slot for the eyes – has been criticised by some Muslim girls, with one labelling it ‘disgusting’.
However, the college principal said the policy means students can study in a ‘safe and welcoming environment’.
Student Imaani Ali, aged 17, said: “We said we would happily show the men at security our faces so they could check them against our IDs, but they won’t let us. It’s a breach of my freedom and I feel discriminated against.”
One 17-year-old student, who did not want to be named, said: “It’s disgusting.”
Principal and chief executive Dame Christine Braddock DBE said the policy had been in place for some time and had been developed to keep students safe.
“We have a very robust equality, diversity and inclusion policy at Birmingham Metropolitan College but we are committed to ensuring that students are provided with a safe and welcoming learning environment whilst studying with us.
“To ensure that safeguarding is a priority, we have developed our policy alongside student views to ensure we keep them safe.
“This needs individuals to be easily identifiable at all times when they are on college premises and this includes the removal of hoodies, hats, caps and veils so that faces are visible.All prospective and progressing students, as well as staff, have been advised of the policy, which will mean everyone allowed on the premises can understand and know each other in a safe environment.”
However, the move has been supported by other students at the college.
Business student Chante Young, 17, said: “You don’t know who is underneath it. You can’t see any of their face – only their eyes.”
Stourbridge College changed its name following a merger with Birmingham Metropolitan College earlier this year.
It is now known as Birmingham Metropolitan College in the Black Country. There are sites in Hagley Road, Stourbridge, Brierley Hill, Kingswinford and Kidderminster.
The college has around 9,000 16-19-year-olds, as well as 35,000 adult learners and more than 250 international students.
Tory MP Philip Hollobone, who refuses to meet constituents wearing a veil, has tabled a bill making it illegal to wear “face coverings” in public.