When Majed Afana needs to pray while attending classes at the University of Michigan in Dearborn, the 19-year-old Muslim usually will duck into the campus library’s bathroom, strip off his shoes and awkwardly strain to wash his feet in the sink.

Water often pools at his feet, he says, making it slippery to balance on one foot.

Some of the sinks have started to pull away from the wall, in part from years of use by others like him – who, according to their faith, must clean their feet before praying five times a day.

So when the school recently approved installing two foot baths in a pair of new unisex bathrooms to accommodate the needs of male and female Muslim students, the local Islamic community started planning ways to raise the estimated $25,000 cost.

But the university told them not to bother – it would pay for the foot baths.

“I think it’s great,” said Afana, a pre-med student at the commuter school, where a reported 11% of the 8,600 students are Muslim.

“What we’ve been doing all these years has been dangerous and can be a safety hazard.”

The university says it’s tapping student infrastructure fees for the unisex bathrooms, which will also have diaper-changing stations and facilities for mothers to nurse infants, because this is an issue of trying to make its bathrooms safer and improve plumbing – not of endorsing a religion.

The fees are part of the school’s general fund, paid by students – not by taxpayers – and often used for campus maintenance and general construction.

“We see this as a reasonable accommodation to a customary practice of a growing number of our students and visitors on campus,” said Terry Gallagher, a university spokesman.


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