When it comes to the rights of the people with service dogs vs. the tenets of Islam, a leading Islamic group in Minnesota is encouraging Muslims to be tolerant.

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) today is expressing support for a St. Cloud State University student's right to his service dog after he left the school in late April because he says he feared for the safety of the animal.

"The moral and legal need to accommodate individuals using service dogs far outweighs the discomfort an individual Muslim might feel about coming into contact with a dog, which is one of God's creatures," said CAIR-MN Communications Director Valerie Shirley.

CAIR-MN explains that Muslims believe the saliva of dogs invalidates the ritual ablution performed before prayer. Therefore, it has become a cultural norm for individuals not to have dogs in their houses -- not because the dog is unclean.

The Prophet Mohamed allowed the use of dogs for protection and for hunting, CAIR-MN added.

The St. Cloud Times on Monday reported that a St. Cloud State University student in a teacher-training program at Technical High School left the school late last month because he says he feared for his service dog's safety.

According to the Times:

Tyler Hurd, 23, said a student threatened to kill his service dog, Emmitt. The black lab protects Hurd when he has seizures, which are from a childhood injury.

The threat came from a Somali student who is Muslim, said Hurd and officials from SCSU and the School District. Hurd also said that students at Tech taunted his dog.

The district called it a misunderstanding, the Times said, and officials there said they want Hurd to resume his training in the district.

In 2007, a similar conflict occurred among Twin Cities cabdrivers and passengers with guide dogs. After CAIR-MN intervened, the drivers offered free rides to attendees of the American Council of the Blind Convention in Minneapolis.

CAIR-MN said it will continue to educate Muslims in Minnesota about their Islamic and legal duty to accommodate those using service or guide dogs. CAIR is the nation's largest Islamic civil liberties group, with 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482