DETROIT– Three years after an Islamic group persuaded Michigan public school officials to forbid the distribution of Christian permission slips, the very same organization is urging nearby school districts to permit regular Muslim prayers.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a non-profit Muslim advocacy organization, dedicated to promoting Islamic values and fighting discrimination against Muslims in the United States. Founded nearly twenty years ago, CAIR now claims to be the largest Islamic civil liberties group in the nation, with hundreds of employees and volunteers stationed in multiple chapters across the country.
One such CAIR office that has received extensive press attention recently is the Michigan chapter (CAIR-MI), which is based out of Southfield. According to their website, CAIR-MI was founded in 2000, and actively seeks to “enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding through education, mediation, media and the law.”
In late 2009, CAIR-MI learned that an elementary school in the northeastern Detroit suburb of Roseville allowed permission slips for a nearby Bible study to be distributed to students. Personnel from CAIR-MI contacted the school, and—by October 2009—school officials had put a stop to the permission slip distribution.
Afterwards, the school district’s superintendent apologized for the incident, telling the Detroit Free Press that they had “made a mistake” in distributing the slips, and “shouldn’t have made the slips available.” In the process, Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR-MI, condemned the school district for allowing the incorporation of religion into the elementary school.
“This goes way, far beyond what is acceptable,” Walid told the local ABC affiliate.
Fast forward three-and-a-half years. Earlier this year, CAIR-MI contacted officials at a school in Dearborn, which is another Detroit-area suburb approximately 20 miles from Roseville. Only this time, the Islamic group urged Dearborn Public Schools to give Muslim students the freedom to openly pray on school property and be excused for off-campus prayers during class times. And once again, public school officials succumbed to the Islamic group’s pressure.
“Dearborn Public Schools has implemented a policy which fully accommodates student-led prayer in all the schools,” an April 4th article from Arab American News reports, “as well as unexcused absences for students who leave early on Fridays for Jumu’ah prayers.”
But, despite this major victory, CAIR-MI doesn’t want to stop there. Muslim advocates are now trying to convince school officials in nearby Melvindale to implement similar Muslim-friendly accommodations.
What do these proposed accommodations normally entail? According to CAIR’s pamphlet, An Educator’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices, CAIR usually asks school officials to permit at least two private prayer times during school hours, each of which lasts up to 15 minutes.
“When the Muslim prays, he or she is fully engaged,” the guide explains. “He or she may not respond to a conversation. Students and teachers should not take offense if the worshipper does not answer their call during the prayer.”
In the wake of these decisions, many people are frustrated by what they believe is hypocrisy on the part of the school district—cracking down on Christian activities in one school, but readily allowing Muslim practices in another. Education expert Kyle Olson expressed his frustration with the perceived discrimination.
“So Muslims can conduct religious activities within a public school,” he wrote on Townhall.com, “but Christians can’t go off-site to receive voluntary Bible lessons? What’s wrong with this picture? Is political correctness accommodating such hypocrisy?”