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The principal of a college campus near uMzinto, which is to be investigated at the request of Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, has hit back at allegations that its students are forced to practise Islam.

Ebrahim Majam has denied that it is mandatory for non-Muslim students to study the Qur’an or wear traditional Islamic clothing while living in dormitories at the As-Salaam Institute.

On Tuesday, Nzimande said he would set up a probe into how the college, a public institution, managed its student accommodation.

Nzimande said that in a constitutional democracy and secular state, infringing on a student’s right to religious freedom was worrying and “out of order”.

However, Majam said that students, parents, the SRC and dormitory representatives had agreed that the requirements for admission include dressing modestly and rising at dawn to proceed to a common assembly area.

“Here, Muslim students must engage in compulsory Islamic prayer while the remainder of our students can do homework, assignments and prepare for assessments,” Majam said in a statement.

He added that “dressing modestly” did not mean having to wear a cloak.

Majam said that a protest had erupted when college officials tried to discuss class boycotts with the SRC.

“We were met with complete disregard for authority, disrespect, singing of revolutionary songs, jeering… Class disruption and vandalism continued to be the order of the day.”

Majam did not comment on Nzimande’s involvement, but called for KZN Education MEC Senzo Mchunu, as well as a senior official from the Higher Education Department, to “closely examine ongoing disruptions and vandalism at tertiary institutions”.

Majam said that R45 000 had been spent beefing up security since the protests and a fire at the college.

The dormitories, he said, provided a safe and secure environment, chiefly for female students, and because they were run by As-Salaam they were in accordance with its rules and ethos.

A week ago, 70 of the protesting students said they had been booted out of the dormitories, leaving them without lodgings because they relied on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.

Majam said that after consulting with parents, students and management, the college had decided that it would be prudent to close the dormitories, which housed “12 percent of its 500 students”.