A British university once attended by Islamic State (IS) terrorist ‘Jihadi John’ has installed CCTV cameras in its prayer rooms, sparking protests by students who say the move has fuelled fear that they are being “monitored”.
The University of Westminster in London has tightened security since Jihadi John – whose real name was Mohammed Emwazi – was in 2015 revealed as a former student. An internal report has said the varsity’s Islamic society had become a “breeding ground for very ultraconservative views”.
The university’s student union has complained about the cameras and claims that key cards used to enter the rooms are being monitored, The Sunday Times reported. “The lack of understanding leads to a lack of trust, some anger and frankly a degree of fear,” said Jim Hirschmann, the union’s president.
Salsabil Sila, one of the union’s Muslim officers, said some students now prayed off campus. “It has limited us from being able to perform our prayers in an environment where we can feel completely at ease. What would normally be a safe space where we could take off our scarves has now been taken away from us,” she said.
Father Stephen Wang, chaplain at the University of London, said: “It is certainly not the norm to have CCTV cameras in prayer rooms and chapels. I would want to know what the reasons were and whether it had been agreed with the chaplains, the interfaith team and the students concerned.”
The University of Westminster said: “It was not the university’s intention to cause alarm or offence. As these rooms are quiet, reflective and often solitary spaces, it is important to make sure people feel secure and not vulnerable … The university has a clear and transparent CCTV policy.”
Emwazi, who graduated with a degree in information systems, became IS masked executioner, responsible for the deaths of at least five British and American hostages. At the time the world’s most wanted man, he was killed by a targeted US airstrike last year.