Amna Qamer

Volume 75, Issue 4, 1097-1138

United States courts have long struggled to define the intersection of public institutions and religious practices. Though higher education institutions aim to enrich their campuses with diverse communities, they often fail to cultivate an inclusive culture for them. One minority community that has long faced experiences of exclusion is Muslim law students.

According to the Pew Research Center, Islam is the fastest-growing religion worldwide. Despite their growing presence, Muslims remain a minority and face exorbitant levels of Islamophobia. Due to these issues, law schools lack familiarity with Muslim practices and are hesitant to learn, making it challenging for Muslim students to obtain religious accommodations. Requesting religious accommodations or other support is more multifaceted than it may seem. Balancing individual religious practices with avoiding government entanglement in religion is delicate. The First Amendment’s Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses, along with federal and state regulations, outline that public law schools are required to provide religious accommodations when it would fail to protect a student’s Free Exercise rights. Additionally, law schools should offer these accommodations to further campus inclusivity and student performance.

This Note is divided into three Parts. Part I highlights the historical background of Islamophobia and its impact on students in higher education, as well as the legal obligations and limitations for law schools in providing religious accommodations. Part II examines the obstacles Muslim law students encounter, which hinder their ability to practice their faith whilst being a student. These obstacles could be limited if certain religious accommodations are in place. Part III presents recommendations to law schools, based on the various problems described in Part II, on how to provide a constitutionally accommodating space on campus.