A law school professor has filed a complaint with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights, alleging that Catholic University of America, a private institution, discriminates against Muslim students.
John F. Banzhaf III claims the school "[denies Muslim students] equal access to the benefits CUA provides to other student groups," according to a press release, posted on PRLog.
The professor's allegations stem from the school's failure to give formal recognition to a Muslim Association, although its law school recognizes a Jewish association, according to theThe Tower, Catholic University's school newspaper.
In addition, Banzhaf says it is unfair that Catholic University does not provide its Muslim students with separate prayer rooms to conduct their daily rituals without being surrounded by religious insignia, such as crucifixes, the press release states.
In a 2010 interview with National Public Radio, University president John Garvey openly admitted that there are no rooms "exclusively" reserved for Muslim prayer, but explained that various spaces are made available for the students, Fox News points out.
But that's not good enough, Banzhaf says. The press release states:
...It is alleged that CUA does not provide space -- as other universities do -- for the many daily prayers Muslim students must make, forcing them instead to find temporarily empty classrooms where they are often surrounded by Catholic symbols which are incongruous to their religion. Furthermore, it appears that Muslims on campus may even be forced to do their meditation in the school's chapels or in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – hardly places where students of a very different religion are likely to feel very comfortable.
"It shouldn't be too difficult somewhere on the campus for the university to set aside a small room where Muslims can pray without having to stare up and be looked down upon by a cross of Jesus," Banzhaf told Fox News.
The school says they have not received complaints from students themselves, Fox News points out.
News of the allegations have ignited debate, with some questioning what Muslim students who attend the university expected to find.
"The Muslims who are upset here applied to go to school at Catholic university. Not the University of Tehran at Washington D.C.," Neal Barton said on his show, POV. "Why can't they be happy to be here and use the space afforded?"
But others think there's a better solution.
"There is a better way, and a more civil way and, in fact, a more accommodating way for Muslim students to be able to pray at Catholic University, as they do at Georgetown, at Boston College, another Catholic institution...," Ibrahim Ramey, Director of the Civil and Human Rights Division of the Muslim American Society Freedom, told Sean Hannity on Fox News.
Robert Tuttle, a law professor at George Washington University, explained that "the city's anti-discrimination law has a broad exemption for political and religious groups," and that chances are the complaint will not be successful, according to the Washington Post.
Banzhaf, who teaches at George Washington University, has filed several other complaints, including one involving dorms and sex discrimination. The Washington Post points out that his own website dubs him as "the area's best-known 'radical' law professor."A spokesperson from the Office of Human Rights told Fox News that the investigation could take about six months to complete.