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Suit: American Islamic College discriminated against worker

Sun-Times file photo

A former employee of the American Islamic College (AIC) filed a lawsuit Thursday, claiming the North Side college and its president discriminated, harassed and unfairly treated him over his Christian faith, eventually forcing him to resign.

Munir Habash, a practicing Christian, filed the suit against AIC and its president, Hasan Ali Yurtsever, in Cook County Circuit Court, claiming he was discriminated against, harassed, and treated disparately for his religious beliefs, which would violate the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance.

Habash, the former director of finance and operations for AIC, worked for the college, located at 640 W. Irving Park Rd., between August 2006 and January 2016, according to the lawsuit. He claims that in 2012, when Yurtsever — who is “a devout Muslim” — became president of the college, he “noticed a sharp change in the manner in which he was perceived by AIC.”

Yurtsever would begin meetings by reciting verses from the Quran, even though it made Habash uncomfortable, and regularly told Habash and others in the meetings that all non-Muslims will go to hell, the suit said. Habash also claims that employees of AIC made repeated attempts to convert him to Islam.

In August 2013, Habash heard a professor telling Yurtsever that Muslims only produce 3 percent of the world’s food but consume 25 percent, the suit said. In response, while looking at Habash, Yurtsever said, “Good, let the Christians serve us.”

After returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia in May 2015, Yurtsever told AIC employees that Saudi Board Members of AIC did not want Christians in the building, the suit claims. About the same time, Yurtsever began taking over Habash’s duties, and hiring only “unlicensed and uninsured” Muslim contractors, the suit said.

About July 15, 2015, Yurtsever cut Habash’s vacation time from 21 days per year to 15 days, the suit alleges. On the other hand, Muslim employees were given 14 days off per year, plus a week-long vacation for the December holidays, which Habash was not afforded.

Habash also claims that Muslim employees received substantially higher wage increases, while his salary remained stagnant for years, the suit said. In January, Muslim employees allegedly received a 27 percent raise, while Habash received a 2 percent raise. When Habash protested, Yurtsever told him “that was the way it was and accept it.”

Habash resigned Jan. 16, the suit said. He is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

A representative from the American Islamic College could not be immediately reached for comment on the lawsuit Thursday evening.