A college that caused outrage by banning Muslim students from wearing burkas claiming they were a ‘security risk’ have performed a last minute U-turn to avoid a mass student protest.
Birmingham Metropolitan College barred religious veils, as well as hoodies and caps, in a controversial crackdown claiming safety reasons.
But the move angered Islamic groups and students who attend the college who say they should be allowed to wear what they like.
The sudden U-turn came just hours before a protest was due to take place after over 8,000 people signed a petition against the ban.
A statement announcing the back-track – which came despite David Cameron throwing his weight behind the college’s stance – admitted they were bowing to public pressure.
It read: “We are concerned that recent media attention is detracting from our core mission of providing high quality learning.
“As a consequence, we will modify our policies to allow individuals to wear specific items of personal clothing to reflect their cultural values.
“The college will still need to be able to confirm an individual’s identity in order to maintain safeguarding and security.
“We have listened to the views of our students and we are confident that this modification to our policies will meet the needs of all of our learners and stakeholders.”
The ban sparked national outrage with the Muslim Council of Britain who branded it “draconian”.
A spokeswoman said: “This is a clear case of religious discrimination masquerading as a security measure.
“We understand that the women in question have shown willingness to identify themselves to security guards.
“So the claims by the authorities of Birmingham Metropolitan Council seem disingenuous.
“In Britain, we pride ourselves in the freedom of religion. Attempts to ban the ‘niqab’ or full face veil, has been rightly described as ‘unBritish’.
“Individuals cannot be told what they can or cannot wear.
“For Birmingham Metropolitan College to ban the niqab is quite a shocking and draconian step to take, especially at an institution of Higher Education.”
College student Imaani Ali, 17, slammed the ban, she said: “They haven’t provided us with another alternative.
“We said we would happily show the men at security our faces so they could check them against our IDs, but they won’t let us.
“It’s a breach of my freedom and I feel discriminated against. This is my religion, it is what I believe in.
“I don’t really want to go to a place that doesn’t accept me but I have no choice now.”
Elsewhere, other students have welcomed the ban and say it actually made them feel safer while they study at the college.
Ross Taylor, 19, said: “Britain has a good history of respecting religious customs but sometimes you have to abide by the rules of the country you are in – and this if for their own safety.”
His friend Tim Townsend, 17, said: “We can’t wear baseball caps or hoodies and we respect that.
“Why can’t they do the same?”
Chante Young, 17, who is studying business, added:
“You don’t know who is underneath it. You can’t see any of their face – only their eyes.”
In defending the original decision, a statement from college principal Dame Christine Braddock said: “To ensure that safeguarding is a priority, we have developed our policy alongside student views to ensure we keep them safe.
“This needs individuals to be easily identifiable at all times when they are on college premises and this includes the removal of hoodies, hats, caps and veils.”