Muslim students at all three Iowa public universities are pushing the colleges to provide them with permanent spaces for their daily and weekly religious observances.
With all due respect, take a hike.
Nothing against people of Muslim faith, or any faith, or no faith, for that matter.
A college isn't a church, or a mosque. It's there to provide an education, not a religion.
If your beliefs require prayers between classes, good for you. Pray in your own dorm room or apartment or in your car. If you wish to hold church services, join one or obtain a place off campus with like-minded others, like any other congregational group would.
Muslim students unsatisfied with the religious offerings on Iowa campuses must realize they are choosing to attend a university in a country that is not primarily Muslim. They knew this situation when they applied to the U of I, ISU or UNI - and took advantage of tuition subsidies courtesy of Iowa taxpayers.
Shouldn't students be worrying about their classes, tests, internships and term papers - not about searching out affronts and complaints on accommodations?
At UNI, the student international recruiter is working with a Muslim group to try to find a meeting space.
At the U of I, the vice president of student life is meeting with the Muslim Student Association to try to find a solution to meet their desires. The university's policy is to accommodate faith-based campus groups wherever possible by allowing them to reserve existing university rooms at minimal or no cost.
That seems quite adequate. But it's not really what the Muslim students are after.
A permanently-assigned space, they say, would give non-Muslims a place to learn about their religion.
"If someone wants to know something about Islam, especially with all the controversy going around the world right now, it would be nice to have an address (on campus) where people could come to ask, 'What do you guys think about this? What do you guys think about that?' " said Mohamed Othman, a UI sophomore.
That sounds a little like religious recruiting, or at least promotion, and it is not a public college's role or responsibility. Major colleges certainly have classes in religious studies and philosophy for those who wish to learn about various religious beliefs.
At Iowa State, Muslim students have access to the university's chapel in the Memorial Union the same as students of any other religion, but they say its not convenient because it is too far from their classes to allow easy access for praying.
It's not the first controversy surrounding the chapel. A few years ago, there was a big flap when an assistant professor called for the university to remove a wooden cross dating to the 1950s from the chapel, as well as a Star of David and a menorah depicted in stained glass.
"Does this cross not violate the separation of religion and government clause of the U.S. Constitution by promoting one form of religion over all others?" the professor argued, calling Christian symbolism on campus "inappropriate."
In 2014, the Memorial Union was forced to remove Bibles from the hotel rooms it offers, after a challenge from the Freedom From Religion foundation.
The group's attorney, Patrick Elliott, said that for a state-run university to provide a Bible to guests, "that policy facilitates illegal endorsement of Christianity..."
So, where are high-horse professors and mightier-than-thou atheist groups to protest when Muslim students ask for special provisions for religious events on a public-owned campus? I can answer that for you - they're scared. Not afraid of Muslims, I expect, but afraid of political correctness in a volatile world.
In this PC age, society seemingly has a sharp eye out to get rid of crosses and Bibles in public spaces, but our colleges are supposed to supply prayer and promotion rooms for Islam, at taxpayer expense.
Someone explain how that makes sense.
If it does, when do you build permanent rooms for Jewish, Buddhist, Hindus, Christians and every other religious movement to host worship services, prayers and to try to explain their religion to others, on every public college campus?
Frankly, let them all take a hike. And not because we do not respect religious expression and ethnic diversity, or the pursuit of separation of church and state... because this is a college. It is paid for by the people of this state to educate its children, and those people expect their investment to provide spaces and programs to educate and conduct classes, above all else.
We don't need our campuses to be our worship halls, any more than we go to churches to learn algebra.
We wish the Muslim student groups well. It is sad that all so many people perceive of their faith is the fear and loathing resulting from international terrorist attacks. They should not suffer for what radical extremists have done, misguidedly, in the name of a religion.
We know of no instances when Muslim students at any of the colleges have been anything but peaceful and studious, and they deserve to be able to follow their culture and beliefs in safety and respect in our society, and to be welcomed, as any other group would be.
What we're saying is that it is not the job of a public college, or public school, or public hospital, or public courthouse, to provide special treatment for any religious group over any other.
That's not racist, or Islamophobic. It is in fact equality, which is what every group claims to want.