Catholic University’s Muslim students should have prayer rooms without crucifix, complaint states

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 the The 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.

Huffington Post, 29 October 2011

Predictably, this issue has been systematically misrepresented by the US right. See for example “Muslims miffed that Catholic University has Catholic imagery”,, 30 October 2011

See also NewsHounds for Brian Kilmeade’s biased presentation of a Fox News debate between civil rights attorney Shayan Elahi and the Islamophobes’ favourite Muslim, Zuhdi Jasser.

Update:  See also Sheila Musaji, “Charges against Catholic university were not made by Muslims”, The American Muslim, 30 October 2011