Missouri student sues professor over alleged remarks

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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A Muslim student at the University of Missouri has filed a lawsuit alleging that a biology professor directed a slew of sexually suggestive and religiously offensive remarks at her.

Fatma El-Walid claims in the lawsuit filed Nov. 30 that professor Michael Garcia asked El-Walid if her parents had waterboarded her "as a child in preparation for the future." The lawsuit also claims that he wanted to know if her faith made her hate gay people and Jews. The lawsuit also alleges that Garcia suggested that El-Walid should pose as a suicide bomber.

El-Walid claims the remarks were made in March.

Garcia's lawyer, Josh Oxenhandler says his client "vehemently" denies the claims.

The Columbia Missourian (http://bit.ly/1OgmjYa ) reports that El-Walid says her grades dropped as a result of trauma from the exchange with her professor. She is seeking more than $25,000 in damages and wants the school to discipline Garcia.

University of Missouri spokesman Christian Basi said the school was aware of the lawsuit, but declined to comment specifically about Garcia.

The lawsuit says a complaint was reported to the school's Equity Office by a student not named in the lawsuit. Basi said that when a complaint is filed, it is immediately referred to the relevant office.

El-Walid is being represented by St. Louis lawyer Azra Ahmad. Ahmad says El-Walid was referred to her through the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Ahmad told KMIZ (http://bit.ly/1RCTrii ) in a phone interview last week that his client was "humiliated publicly," and wanted an apology.

"And she wants the University to take a stand that such behavior, such prejudice and racism should not be tolerated in a place of higher learning," Ahmad told KMIZ.


Information from: Columbia Missourian, http://www.columbiamissourian.com

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