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hijab

Four students at the University of Westminster want the UK’s state
schools to recognize that the hijab
is not hostile.

This message may get tougher to deliver because current research has renewed
debate over the threat that Islamic political views pose at British universities.

The four Westminster students, two of them Muslim, are all studying for masters
degrees in public relations.

They have created a campaign which encourages all primary and secondary state
schools to permit their Muslim female students to wear the hijab or headscarf.

Wearing the hijab “doesn’t pose any threat to [anyone’s] life,” said Karim Hacine,
one of two Muslim students working on the campaign. “It’s not something related to
bombings [or] fundamentalist groups. It’s just a religious symbol for the Muslim females.”

Research and Debate

Dr. June Edmunds
of Cambridge University wrote in The Guardian’s
Comment is Free that interviews she did with Muslim students at British
universities suggest that fears of Islamic extremism on UK campuses is overblown.

Her findings contradicted research which the Centre for Social Cohesion
published in June.

That report said 32% of the 1400 students it polled believed killing in the
name of religion is justifiable.

But, professor Anthony Glees, wrote on The Guardian’s Mortarboard Blog
that Edmunds’ evidence was not reliable because she only conducted 26
student interviews, eight of which were not in person.

Edmunds responded to Glees that her research was solid because she
used more than just the 26 student interviews. She said she also utilized
a focus group, face to face interviews with Muslim youth organizations
and the work of other researchers.

Changing Perceptions

The Westminster students admit that trying to change the UK school
uniform while addressing perceptions of radical Islam in Britain is difficult.

According to the students, many citizens on the street declined answering
basic research questions asking what they knew about the hijab.

Others acted apologetic when they did answer the students said.

“[The hijab] remains sensitive and controversial at the same time,”
Karim Hacine said.

Also, according to Hacine, many people who did answer questions
about the hijab mistook it forthe niqab, the veil which covers the face,
worn by some Muslim women.

British Muslims

The Muslim Council of Britain reports on its website that different
agencies and publications say there are between 1.5 and 1.8 million
Muslims living in the UK.

The council’s site also provides figures that calculate about half of
these Muslims are born in the UK.

“They consider themselves as being Muslim and British,” says
Erab Fuqaha, the other Muslim student working on this campaign.
“It is very important for them to be accepted by their own community.”

Both the Centre for Social Cohesion’s report and Edmunds’ research
seem to show that many Muslim students want the same kind of tolerance
in the UK that Fuqaha does.

” The British, they are so proud of having this multicultural atmosphere,”
Fuqaha said. “If you really claim that you are a multicultural country then
you have to accept all different religions.”

But she thinks that before she can change school attire she will have
to change some perceptions.

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Jim Chapman, the manager of a student bar at the
University of Westminster’s Harrow campus, said the
establishment’s Monday night drink promotion
makes the place crowded but not chaotic.

Chapman manages Area 51, the university’s bar which is
run as a student club.

His comments follow recent efforts by MPs to introduce
legislation setting a minimum price on alcohol in England
and Wales.

Some in the House of Commons say that cheap booze makes
it easier to binge drink.

They say the drunk patrons of some happy hours are damaging
property and becoming violent after they leave the bar.

Happy Hour Criticism

Keith Vaz,
chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee
has said that said that binge drinking and the behavior
problems it facilitates has become a problem for police.

Vaz spoke on BBC Radio 4’s Today on 10 November saying
“happy hours lead to unhappy communities.”

Home affairs published a report at the end of October which
alleges that “alcohol-related crime places a heavy burden on
police resources.”

Anita Adams, a member of Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations
was also on Today where she argued that MPs were largely at fault for
current problems because they changed the licensing laws.

She added that like the police, pub owners can suffer the consequences of
drunken behavior too and therefor do all they can to stop it.

Local Promotion

Area 51’s promotion, Happy Mondaze, which serves
certain drinks for £1.50 is the busiest night at the bar.

The club posts security guards at the bar’s front
door on promotion nights.

Jim Chapman says that while license laws do not require security
for the happy hour, he feels the guards are a good
precaution for the club to regulate its members.

Because it is a student club, guards check student ID cards to
make sure only students and their guests are entering.

Students are allowed to sign in guests who may not be
Westminster students.

Pound a Pint Problems

Chapman added that for binge drinkers looking for
cheap booze, Area 51 is not a good deal.

He pointed out that a nearby pub in Harrow charges £1 per
pint at its happy hour.

“We would never do £1 a pint.” Chapman said. “We don’t think
that’s responsible drinking.”

He notes the club adheres to measure regulations and he
and his bar staff are mindful of how drinkers conduct
themselves.

“To be honest, I’ve got a low tolerance for drunk people,”
Chapman said.

Chapman wants to keep approaching his job with
that attitude because he believes it has kept drink
fueled mayhem away from Area 51 and Westminster’s
Harrow campus.

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