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Rector intervenes on gender-segregated prayer room at the University of Copenhagen

Religion — Gender-segregated prayer rooms and a Ramadan dinner with a Quran recitation do not belong in a public educational institution like the University of Copenhagen. This is according to MP Mikkel Bjørn of the Danish People's Party. And the rector agrees with him.

In contravention of university regulations, gender segregation practices have emerged in the so-called retreat room at the University of Copenhagen out of consideration for Muslim students. Men can pray at one end and women at the other in the retreat room, which is used for prayer, devotional practices, and mindfulness.

This is according to Danish news site Berlingske [paywalled].

The case has been taken up by MP for the Danish People’s Party Mikkel Bjørn, who was tipped off about the practice by an anonymous student.

At the same time, Mikkel Bjørn has been made aware that students of dentistry recently held a Ramadan dinner at the university with an associated recitation from the Quran. This was despite the fact that the University of Copenhagen guidelines state that you cannot lease the premises for religious purposes.

READ ALSO: Danish parliament split in debate over prayer rooms

Rector calls for action

Rector of the University of Copenhagen, Henrik C. Wegener, agrees with Mikkel Bjørn that religious activities, including gender-segregated prayer rooms and religious events such as Ramadan dinners with Quran recitations, are in contravention of university principles.

He says to the Berlingske news site that the university must remain free of religious and political influence.

»A university is a place where we pursue the creation of new knowledge together, and where we acquire knowledge that is not limited or directed by ideology or religion, but only by way of the academic discipline. This is the whole foundation of the university’s knowledge. And we can’t have a student or a professor let themselves be limited in their willingness to understand the world by a religious or political code or, for that matter, by anything commercial,« Henrik C. Wegener says to Berlingske.

The rector says that management will have a conversation with the student chaplain who manages the retreat rooms. It will also contact the organization behind the Ramadan dinner and emphasize that preaching religious events are not allowed at the university.

Mikkel Bjørn has also requested that the Minister for Higher Education and Science, Christina Egelund (M), state an opinion on the subject.

READ ALSO: »I got annoyed that no one wanted to talk about retreat rooms as religious«