A school in Oldham, Greater Manchester has issued a “sincere apology” after footage showing Muslim students praying outside in the cold weather provoked outrage within the community.
he video showed male pupils at Oldham Academy North conducting their Jummah (Friday) prayers outside of the school because a teacher had “kicked them out of the classroom”, it has been claimed.
Footage shows around eight boys kneeling with their heads bowed on the pavement, while a member of the school’s staff wearing a hi-visibility jacket appears to watch over them.
After completing their prayers they stand up and pick up their belongings.
The footage has been met with widespread anger, with critics saying it was “distressing” and “disgusting” to watch.
Oldham Academy North has since apologised and said the students had been unable to pray inside as severe flooding had caused serious damage, meaning 15 classrooms were not in use.
In a statement issued after the clip went viral, the school issued a “wholehearted apology” and confirmed an investigation has been launched.
They said: “Earlier this week photos on social media began to circulate of students at The Oldham Academy North praying outside.
“We would like to offer a sincere apology. We are proud of our diversity and have never, and would never, stop students from praying or ask them to pray outside.
“While we have always sought to provide appropriate prayer facilities at the academy, we are working with Oldham Interfaith Forum and Oldham Council to address the concern this issue has caused.
“At The Oldham Academy North, we consider our diversity our greatest strength. We will always do everything in our power to ensure our students, staff and our communities are given the very best opportunities in life.”
One former student speaking to The Oldham Times said boys had been conducting Friday prayers in a classroom when a teacher “told them to leave”.
The students then went outside to perform their prayers in the cold weather because the school had not offered a viable prayer room.
Another report by Asian Image interviewed a pupil who claimed to be involved in the incident.
They said an “angry” teacher had told the group they were not allowed to pray in the room they were in.
The student explained: “We were praying Jummah and a teacher came in and told us we aren’t allowed to pray in that room and she slammed the door and seemed angry.
“We have had a prayer room for a long time, teachers would allow us to go there for our prayers.”
Muslim leaders in the community have since promised to work more closely with the school to prevent anything like this from occurring in the future.
Oldham Council Leader, Arooj Shah, said: “When we were made aware of the issues raised at the Oldham Academy North, we acted quickly to speak with the school to understand what had happened.
“Having spoken with the school leaders I am glad they have apologised to those who were affected and will be writing to parents to explain.
“Oldham is a proud and diverse borough and I know that the Oldham Academy North sees this as a strength for the school.
“We will continue conversations with the school around this matter to investigate the situation properly.”
Oldham Mosques Council Development Officer, Mufti Helal Mahmood, said: “We will be working closely with Oldham Academy North to ensure incidents like this can be avoided in the future.
“We have a strong history in Oldham of working together across different communities and faiths.
“We must not let ourselves be divided when issues arise but work through them in partnership to achieve peaceful resolutions.”
Oldham Academy North has been contacted for further comment.