The University of Michigan-Dearborn plans to spend $25,000 for foot-washing stations, making it easier for Muslim students to practice their religion but sparking questions about the separation of church and state.

The university claims the stations are needed to accommodate Muslim students, who must ritually wash their bodies — including the feet — up to five times each day before prayers. But critics hit conservative blogs and radio airwaves Monday to argue public money shouldn’t cover the cost. . .

U-M Dearborn will include the floor-level stations at two bathrooms to be constructed in August at the University Center and Fairlane Center buildings, said Terry Gallagher, spokesman for the university. The units are necessary because some students resorted to washing their feet in sinks.

The university of 8,600 students doesn’t track them by religion, Gallagher said.

“This was a reasonable accommodation,” he said.

Gallagher argued taxpayer money won’t be used for the foot baths because the $100,000 total bill for the bathrooms is underwritten by a fee students pay for building maintenance. . .

The Internet has created the fuss at U-M Dearborn, argued Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“To my knowledge, none of the students or staff have made any complaints about the foot-washing area,” Walid said.

“This whole thing came to light through some right-wing Islama-phobic bloggers that want to promulgate the idea that the university is being Islama-fied.”


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