Atheists Upset University of Iowa Created Separate Muslim Prayer Spaces

Muslim students hold a prayer before a rally against Islamophobia at San Diego State University in San Diego, California, November 23, 2015.
Muslim students hold a prayer before a rally against Islamophobia at San Diego State University in San Diego, California, November 23, 2015. | (Photo: Reuters/Sandy Huffaker)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has demanded that the University of Iowa reverse its decision to allocate spaces on campus for full-time prayer for Muslim faculty, staff and students.

"This goes beyond any claimed accommodation provided to students. The University may not establish worship and prayer spaces targeted to certain religious persons and practices," FFRF staff attorney Patrick Elliott wrote to UI President Bruce Harreld, according to Press-Citizen.

The university is using two former offices in the Iowa Memorial Union as the prayer areas.

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"These rooms are certainly going to be used primarily by Muslim students, but they're not limited to be used by Muslim students," Tom Rocklin, UI vice president for student life, was earlier quoted as saying.

"This is in addition to a longstanding university chapel that features a Latin cross," FFRF says on its website about the issue. "The presence of such religious venues on a public campus raises a number of issues. By instituting areas that are exclusively used by specific religious groups such as Christians and Muslims, the University of Iowa is violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, FFRF asserts. The organization is also concerned that the university is facilitating the discriminatory practice of gender segregation practiced in the Muslim prayer rooms."

The Muslim Student Association at UI said on its Facebook page at the time of the opening of the prayer space last month, "For the first time, Muslim students at the University of Iowa have a safe place to pray on campus."

"Normally when I'm on campus, I try to look for an empty room, which may be hard in the day with all these students or if I can't find a room I'll go to the top of a staircase and just pray there," Mohammed Ismail, a member of the Association, said, according to Breitbart.

"We've had students who have tried to find empty rooms, I've even heard of a student using a stairwell so we did think this was a very important and necessary thing to respond to," Dean of Students Lyn Redington said, according to CBS2Iowa. "The University of Iowa is a global, international institution, but we want all of our students to feel welcomed."

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