A father and his five-year-old son were turned away from their local swimming pool because they were the wrong religion. David Toube, 39, and his son Harry were told that the Sunday morning session was reserved for Muslim men only.
Hackney Council, which runs the Clissold Leisure Centre in Stoke Newington, north London, claimed staff there had made a mistake.
However, the Muslim-only session was advertised on its website.
Mr Toube, a corporate lawyer, described his experiences on a blog.
“I arrived at the pool to discover that they were holding what staff described to me as “Muslim men only swimming”,” he wrote.
“I asked whether my son and I could go as we were both male. I was told that the session was for Muslims only and that we could not be admitted. I asked what would happen if I turned up and insisted I was Muslim.
“The manager suggested that they might ask the Muslims swimming if they minded my son and I swimming with them. If they didn’t object, we might be allowed in.”
A few days later, Mr Toube, who lives with his wife, 38-year-old barrister Samantha, and their two sons in Stoke Newington, North London, spoke to another leisure centre employee.
“He gave me an identical story. His explanation was that it was a requirement of the Muslim religion that Muslims could not swim with non-Muslims.”
Mr Toube joked: “I asked him whether Clissold Leisure Centre would institute Whites Only swimming for racists. His answer was that they would if there was sufficient demand.”
However, Dr Taj Hargey, chair of the Muslim Education Centre of Oxford, said it was not true that Muslims could not swim with non-Muslims.
“There is no Koranic verse or any statement from the sources of Islam that says different religions should be segregated,” he said.
“The only requirement is that when women swim they should be modestly clad.”
The Prophet Mohammed is recorded as saying that it is a Muslim’s duty to learn to swim as it could save his or her life.
The swimming sessions for male Muslims were advertised as taking place every Sunday from 8am to 9.30am.
Leaflets stipulated: “It is compulsory for the body to be covered between the navel and the knees.
“Anyone not adhering to the dress code or rules within the pool will not be allowed to swim. All brothers welcome.’
A leisure centre spokesman said staff were wrong to refuse entry to Mr Toube.
He added: “The member of staff the user spoke with at the time was mistaken when referring to the session as Muslim-only.
“The men’s modesty session is not a private hire and is, therefore, open to the public.
“Staff cannot ask your religion on entrance and you won’t be refused entry if you don’t appear to be Muslim.”
A spokesman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “Segregating services may amount to unlawful discrimination and could create a sense of unfairness, inadvertently increasing community tension.”
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