I attended an 'Open Space' event yesterday conducted by the Office for Public Management (OPM), who have been commissioned by the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority to conduct research into Muslim students' experiences of studying in higher and further education institutions in London.
The event was introduced with findings from on-line surveys carried out by the OPM late last year. The surveys, according to the OPM, identified five areas of concern: 'Tackling Discrimination', 'Social Environment', 'Learning Environment, 'Meeting the Needs of Muslim Students' and 'Identity'.
The main part of the event consisted of two hour-long sessions in which a number of discussions ran simultaneously. Personally, I found the discussions to be very useful, both in airing my own views, experiences and concerns, and also in listening to those of other attendees; Muslim and non-Muslim.
Of course I went with my own agenda, which was to make known some of the issues facing Muslims at my university, like the recent introduction of a ban on wearing the veil, inadequate facilities for the obligatory congregational Friday prayer and the irritating argument we have to hear oh so often: "we are a secular institute". A secular institute! Then why the Christmas trees?!
Anyway, some of the topics discussed were: 'Emotional implications at further/higher education', 'Barriers to further/higher education and choice', 'Ablution and prayer facilities', 'Involvement and participation of Muslims', 'Leadership and role models', 'Tackling discrimination', 'Islamic Societies and surveillance', 'Islamic Societies and Student Unions' and 'The academic curriculum'.
A note on attendance: There seemed to be around 40 participants from various organisations and institutions, under half of which were Muslim. The Muslims, except a few, all seemed to be in their early 20s and only 3 (including myself) were males currently studying or recently completed their studies.
A pause for thought: Why do Muslim women always significantly outnumber Muslim men at events of this nature? Surely the issues concerned affect us both equally?
Another thing that got me thinking after the event was this: Yes things could be better and we are entitled to request (I say "request" and not "demand" after being kindly advised in this regard yesterday) the rights we feel we are entitled to, but how little, if ever, do we show appreciation to the institutions for the facilities they do provide us with? Worth a thought, no?
You can find more information about OPM and their research here: