A Muslim civil rights group today said it supports a St. Cloud State University student's right to use a service dog while teaching at a high school with a growing Muslim population.
The statement comes after 23-year-old Tyler Hurd of Mahtomedi left a teacher-training assignment before its completion at Technical High School in April.
Hurd left because he said he was concerned for the safety of his service dog.
He said he was told a student at the high school threatened to kill the dog, a black lab named Emmitt.
The student is Muslim. The Minnesota Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a statement that the need to accommodate people using service dogs far outweighs the discomfort an individual Muslim feels about coming in contact with a dog. CAIR is the nation's largest Islamic civil liberties group.
"We were just shocked to see that. He (Hurd) was treated with disrespect," Lori Saroya said in an interview. She lives in Minneapolis and is chairwoman of the Minnesota chapter of CAIR.
Muslims believe the saliva of dogs invalidates the ritual ablution performed before prayer. It has become a cultural norm for individuals not to have dogs in their houses, according to Minnesota CAIR.
Reports on the issue first appeared in the University Chronicle, the St. Cloud State student paper, and in Monday's Times. Since then, it has caught fire on conservative radio programs, and news and opinion Web sites.
The attention has made for a stressful few days, Hurd said Wednesday. He said people should not blame the whole Muslim community.
The issue was never about culture; it was about being unhappy with the school district's response to his safety concern, Hurd said. (MORE)