As a Muslim lecturer, I am increasingly drawn into questions concerning religion rather than my subject, ICT. My young Muslim students look to me for support within the college ranks. I am being pressed continually on a number of issues, most recently the decision by my college no longer to provide rooms for prayer. This decision has caused a great deal of upset among Muslim staff and students but I really don't want to get involved.
I'm not a strict Muslim but issues such as this one are polarised by the press; the fact that there are countless Muslims out there like myself who are "westernised" seems to have escaped both Muslims and Christians alike.
Recent statistics indicate that 65 per cent of 16 to 19-year-olds have no religion. We have faith schools but not faith colleges. Colleges do not stop for any other festivals as they do for official public holidays such as Christmas and observers are marked as absent as if they were ill.
Lectures and lessons do not stop for afternoon prayer although some colleges may provide an ecumenical space and even a college chaplain, something which the FE minister Bill Rammel would like in every college. It cannot be discounted that as religious tensions rise around the world organisations may be tempted to make arrangements to ensure that religion of any kind is not afforded a foothold. It seems no one wants to compromise. To some it is insensitive, to others common sense, but the religion-free learning zone may have arrived with or without the minister's consent.