Former Texas A&M professor suing the school

November 7, 2008 8:45:44 PM PST
A former Texas A&M professor is suing that school for what he says happened while was employed there. He says he was repeatedly harassed about his heritage. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

For years, Dr. Mundhir Ridha led the way in reproductive science in his native Iraq, only to be forced out after Saddam Hussein's rule ended. Ridha says he escaped his native country to avoid persecution for his work which was seen as too radical, only to face it in America.

Four years ago, Dr. Ridha, a world renowned scientist, says he couldn't pass up the opportunity to work at Texas A&M University's reproductive sciences lab.

"Texas A&M University is a very good university. It has a very good reputation, not only in the USA, but the world," he said.

Instead of welcoming him with open arms, Dr. Ridha claims his colleagues teased him about his prayers. A devout Muslim, he is required to pray five times a day.

"They make noise like a turkey sound," Dr. Ridha said.

The taunting, he says, didn't end there. Ridha claims on more than one occasion, his holy rug was desecrated with feces and urine from the research cages which housed lab mice.

"It was very painful," he said. "It was really very sad because this is my altar, you know."

What's more, Dr. Ridha says when he complained, his situation at the university only got worse. So he and his wife filed a lawsuit alleging religious persecution.

"Texas A&M and its employees discriminated and harassed and created a hostile work environment for Dr. Ridha because he's Muslim, because he's from Iraq, and because he's different," said Shane McClelland, Dr. Ridha's attorney.

The university conducted its own investigation and while school administrators did not find any evidence of discrimination, according to a letter, they did admit the staff's behavior may have fostered a hostile work environment. Lab personnel were ordered to undergo diversity awareness and sensitivity training.

"They should, you know, correct this," said Dr. Ridha.

Dr. Ridha, who says he's been unable to find work since the university fired him more than a year ago, wants to make sure what he claims happened to him, doesn't happen to anyone else.

"That's not fair, that's not good to the university. That's not good to other people who come to the lab," said Dr. Ridha.

Texas A&M University released a statement to us Friday night saying, "Given this issue involves a personnel matter as well as litigation, it is our practice not to comment any further."

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