Islamic Advocacy Group Pushing for Muslim Prayer Accommodations in Michigan School

Islamic ChildrenDETROIT– 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.

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“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, “but Christians can’t go off-site to receive voluntary Bible lessons? What’s wrong with this picture? Is political correctness accommodating such hypocrisy?”

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  • Pat

    The Bible study was an evangelical effort, trying to recruit schoolchildren. Private Islamic prayer is just that – private, and individual. The Muslims sought permission for nothing other than what Jews already receive for Yom Kippur and other Jewish holidays, and for the same consideration ALL kids receive when they are permitted to pray silently to themselves before, say, a test.

    Next falsified double standard please!

    • Sheesh

      Not so, the hypocrisy is evident in this case. Pray at home or at recess or lunch. If there are special prayer privileges given to certain people of faith, there is not sufficient separation.

      • Pat

        So you would be opposed to celebrating Yom Kippur, Easter, and other religious holidays being excusable absences from school? After all, skipping school because you believe the day has some sacred significance is a “special privilege”, accorded only to “certain people of faith”.

        • Sheesh

          Yes, I am opposed to your “faith” providing any special privileges ( excused from class, allowed to ignore teachers during prayer). I do however understand the assertion of a double standard here, all to common in a thread like this.

          • Pat

            Don’t misunderstand – I am an atheist. I do believe that some minor concessions – like having your child pray in silence for short intervals during the school day, or having a few religious holidays – aren’t a bad idea for keeping the peace, however. My point is that there is no double standard in these two policy decisions – it’s okay for someone to observe their faith quietly and peacefully, but not okay to preach it in an organized manner on school grounds.

  • SomeTechUser

    If Christians are not permitted to pray in school, then Muslims cannot be permitted to do the same. If this country is considered to be a Christian country, then my logic is sound. If it is not, then the Constitution must be followed to the letter whereby ALL religions must either be permitted or excluded. Exceptions simply because of political correctness cannot be tolerated.

  • James Grimes

    Why aren’t the Atheists speaking out against this? The answer is obvious, isn’t it?

    • Sheesh

      The only hypocrisy is from you James. You staunchly defend any pro-Christian activities in public schools but your only argument here is “where are the atheists?” Since I use logic and reason, mental skills unavailable to you, I cannot support any form of religion in public schools, no matter what. So simple.

      • James Grimes


    • James Grimes

      The hypocrisy here is that the Atheists either don’t want to or cannot answer this question. After all, Christianity is not an issue here.

  • Christopher