George Washington professor John Banzhaf is out to help Muslims at Catholic University. His problem: so far, he hasn’t found anyone who wants his help.
Banzhaf recently filed a complaint with the D.C. Office of Human Rights against neighboring Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Because Catholic University won’t officially recognize a Muslim worship group, Banzhaf says the university violates the Human Rights Act and discriminates against Muslim students.
He also says CUA doesn’t provide a place where Muslim students can perform their daily prayers. In turn, they must use empty classrooms where there are Catholic symbols and crucifixes on the wall.
Muslim students at CUA don’t seem as bothered as Banzhaf. In a written statement, university President John Garvey said, “No Muslim student at Catholic University has registered a complaint with the University about the exercise of their religion on campus.”
Banzhaf admitted as much in an email to The Christian Post. He wrote, “At this point, the complaint is filed solely and only in my name.” The online blog for The Blaze says, “Banzhaf sent a letter to the editor of the school’s newspaper soliciting complainants on September 22, yet readily admits that none have signed on to his case against the school.”
Banzhaf first learned about CUA’s policy when The Washington Post last year profiled a Muslim undergraduate at CUA. The university told the student he could not form a group dedicated to Muslim worship because the university doesn’t give non-Catholic worship groups official status.
Garvey stated: “Contrary to the impression Mr. Banzhaf would like to create, the December 2010 Post article spoke in overwhelmingly positive terms about the experience of Muslim students at Catholic University, and explained why they are attracted to us. A considerable part of the attraction stems from the fact that our community, because of its own outward expressions of Catholic faith, makes them feel comfortable living their faith among us.”
CUA has seen its Muslim student enrollment grow, more than doubling since 2007. There are now 122 Muslim students attending the university.
Banzhaf explained via telephone that the university has had the filing for several weeks and was supposed to have responded to it by Thursday.
Victor Nakas, spokesman for Catholic University, replied to The Christian Post via email regarding the matter on Friday. “As Catholic University’s spokesman I can tell you that Mr. Banzhaf’s statement is completely false. We have yet to receive the official complaint from the Office of Human Rights regarding our Muslim students.”
The Office of Human Rights did not return phone calls from The Christian Post regarding the matter.
The university made it clear that Muslim students are welcome at CUA. “Our Catholic teaching instructs us to embrace our fellow human beings of all faith traditions,” Garvey said. “They enrich us with their presence and help to promote inter-religious and inter-cultural understanding. I regret very much that our Muslim students have been used as pawns in a manufactured controversy.”