(SEATTLE, WA 05/06/19) – Today, the first day of the holy month of Ramadan , The Council on American-Islamic Relations – Washington (CAIR-WA) , along with members of student groups and other community leaders celebrated the signing of Senate Bill 5166 , which promises to provide “religious accommodations for post-post-secondary students” in Washington state .

The bill’s journey to law began three years ago when two professors at the University of Washington, Bothell, offered Ramadan accommodations for two of their classes. This kind gesture sparked passionate advocacy by University of Washington Seattle students Byron Dondoyano Jr and Director of Middle Eastern Student Commission, Mennah El-Gammal.

CAIR Washington’s advocacy team helped organize the coalition to write the law and advocate for it at a statewide level during Muslim Day at the Capitol.

Read more about the bill here:  https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=5166&Initiative=false&Year=2019

After successfully securing religious accommodations for UW Seattle students,Dondoyano Jr and El-Gammal joined forces with Jewish, Christian, and other faith communities , to advocate for religious accommodations for students of all faiths throughout the state.

This year, Senator Bob Hasegawa sponsored SB 5166 and, after months of lobbying and testifying, the bill became law on Monday, April 29th, 2019. The law will ensure that post-secondary students of all faiths can request academic accommodation if or when practicing their faith would conflict with their studies.

“Now that the bill is officially state law, I’m excited at the implications,” said El-Gammal after Monday’s signing, “I grew up believing that, as a Muslim, my identity would never be recognized and integrated into the fabric of American society. If this bill can help one person not have to choose between being a good practitioner of their faith, and a good student, then that’s all I could ever hope for.”

CAIR-WA’s Executive Director, Masih Fouladi, said the passage of SB-5166 is an example of Washington’s Muslim community building political power as we head into the 2020 election cycle.

“This bill shows how powerful it is when people of all backgrounds come together to fight for equity and representation for everyone,” said Fouladi, who stressed that the bill ensures religious accommodations for students of all faiths, “This process has been grassroots and inclusive. It’s shown what politically active citizens, working for each other, can accomplish.”

UW Bothell Faculty member Dr. Bryan White said he’s committed to ensuring all of his students have equal access to quality education and freedom of religious expression.

“As an educator, I do my best to support all students and enable them to succeed as they juggle life’s responsibilities,”said Dr. White, “This law is superb as it helps me support students of religious faith and makes sure that they are not disadvantaged by having to choose between school obligations and religious obligations.”

Dr. Rania Hussein, a lecturer at UW Seattle, is already looking toward the future. “I look forward to seeing the implementation of this law in WA state’s institutions,” said Hussein, “I am hoping that one day this law extends to k-12 schools and becomes a federal law to benefit students of all faiths nationwide.”

CAIR-WA Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, McKenna Lux , said she appreciated how accessible law makers had made themselves to the community throughout the process.

“Being involved in this process of lobbying for this bill has been a lesson in our political system at its best” said Lux. “I’ve seen citizens banding together to support and advocate for each other, I’ve also seen lawmakers listen and respond to their constituents. It’s been inspiring.”

Media Contact:
CAIR-WA Media and Outreach Director, Sarah Stuteville sstuteville@cair.com 206-403-3931
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.  

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.