Last spring, Luqman Peaks noticed some fellow Muslim students praying in the library on the downtown Detroit campus of Wayne County Community College District.
They became friends, and they agreed with Peaks that it would be a great idea to start a Muslim student organization. Peaks submitted an application to start the group in May.
At around the same time, he asked the district to provide a prayer room for religious students.
Here's where the story gets weird. Administrators told Peaks he could not start a Muslim student organization because some students had already applied for and been given permission to start the group.
He figured, great, my friends and I will join that group.
Months went by. Eventually, Peaks got an invitation to a "meet and greet" for the group in July. He went.
"And it was at that meeting where I noticed everybody there appeared to work for the school," he says.
From what he could tell, no other Muslim student was at the meet and greet.
In September, Peaks began asking when the monthly meetings would begin. Other Muslim students interested in the group asked as well.
Peaks says most of the calls and emails were completely ignored. Some people got vague replies, such as "thank you for your interest in the WCCCD Muslim Student Organization."
Peaks started to get frustrated. He contacted one of the students who was listed as a founder of the group. The student told him he had nothing to do with starting or planning the group.
Peaks says he made several more requests for a meeting, suggesting specific dates, and asking for a room to be assigned for the meeting. No one replied.
This month, Peaks filed a complaint with the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. "I didn't want to do that," he says, "but I felt like I had no other choice."
Michigan Radio requested emails and other documents from Bassett and Bassett, the public relations firm for WCCCD, that might show another side of the story.
The PR firm sent us a few emails about the group, but none of them mentioned any meetings involving students. We emailed everyone who signed up at the July meet and greet to ask them if they were students or administrators or staff. No one has yet responded.
Michigan Radio also emailed the original student co-founders of the group. Again, no one has yet responded.
Some of the emails bounced back, indicating that the student or staff member is no longer associated with WCCCD.
The district also sent this statement:
Wayne County Community College District encourages all students to participate in campus activities and student clubs. We believe these clubs enhance a student’s education by broadening participation in community activities and life-long learning experiences. The District currently has more than a dozen Student Organizations, including a Muslim Student Organization. The College has established policies related to student activities and the operation of clubs which establishes that a College Administrator must oversee a student organization. In the case of the Muslim Student Organization, the District has three administrators, all of whom are Muslim providing oversight. We welcome any student who wants to participate in a student group to contact our student services department. It is inconceivable that we would exclude our students from this very important educational experience. All of our student organizations are open for membership to all students who are interested in joining.
Since the civil rights complaint was filed, WCCCD has agreed to meet Peaks, other Muslim students, and representatives of the Council on American Islamic Relations.