1999 Civil Rights Report: Expressions of Faith

Executive Summary

The majority of complaints received by CAIR’s offices in 1999 consist of incidents of religious accommodation denial. Complaints about the lack of accommodation to Muslim prayer in schools and the workplace accounted for the largest portion of cases. Hijab related complaints came in second place, a marked change from previous years, which implies an increased tolerance toward Muslim women’s attire by the American public.

Still, a survey of Muslim parents and students in the public school systems shows that the majority shy away from requesting religious accommodation. Accommodation policies in most school districts surveyed in this report do not adequately address most of the religious requirements of Muslim students, suggesting that the problem of accommodating Muslim students is more structural than incidental in nature.

At the workplace, there has been a modest change, with some corporations adjusting their policies to accommodate the religious practices of their employees. Still, incidents of discrimination recur even at places where education and moral persuasion in the past have led to successful resolution of discrimination complaints.

In public schools, there has been little progress in the form of policy initiatives by some school districts in favor of religious accommodation. Yet most school districts surveyed in this report do not address most Muslim concerns. Local Muslim communities ought to be more active in providing input to school boards, so that school district policies regarding religious accommodation address the needs of Muslim students. Also, Congress and the Department of Education may take appropriate initiatives to address the needs of minority students, similar to what government did when the Equal Access Act was passed and implemented dealing with concerns raised by religious conservative Christians.