Meet Charlie. Charlie is a devout Catholic and has a 10 hour layover in Narnia Airport. He decides that he will go and have a bit of restorative prayer at the Christian chapel provided.

Now meet Dan, a devout Muslim who has a 15 hour layover. He is saddened to find there is no area set up for Muslim prayers so he is unable to say any of his Salah prayers.

Has Dan been treated less favourably by the airport and unlawfully discriminated against?

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    Keep looking for a better example --- At the airport Terminal facilities "Multi faith prayer rooms The Heathrow Multi Faith Chaplaincy supports staff and passengers of all faiths and those of none" heathrow.com/at-the-airport/terminal-facilities/… Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 0:03
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    I wasn't aware that Islam required a specific place to be set aside for prayer... I am not Muslim, but my understanding from people I know is that you can pray pretty much anywhere as long as it is clean... Which means that a devout Muslim is not prevented from saying a prayer.
    – Questor
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 0:09
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    What’s Bob at checkout?
    – Damila
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 3:13
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    Can you please edit to give a title that explains that the question is about religious facilities and discrimination? All we can tell from the current title is that it's related to travel, which isn't even really true. Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 3:18
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    Are we to assume that the airport never has facilities for Muslim prayers? At many airports, there is a room which hosts services for different religions during different times or days of the week. If so, it may be that facilities are available at some times, but Dan was simply unlucky with his arrival time. Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 3:20

2 Answers 2


Not offering a particular service is not a crime and also not discrimination. In the example stated, the "particular service" would be "prayer room for Muslims".

The example provided is not optimal, since airport chapels are normally arranged so that people of every religion find what they need (e.g. they provide the Koran as well as the Bible). Of course, it's possible that Dan arrives just when there's a Christian service in the chapel, but then he can just wait for half an hour or so.

In the general case, no private entity is forced to offer a particular service. So even the airport would not be forced to offer a prayer room, let alone a Muslim prayer room. It could however be illegal discrimination if Dan wasn't allowed to enter a Christian chapel because he is Muslim. This is the same as if the waiter in a restaurant denies entry to black people (a serious crime in many countries). But it's of course legal for the waiter to not (specifically) offer food for Muslims (e.g. without pig).

  • “It could however be illegal discrimination if Dan wasn't allowed to enter a [Synagogue] because he is Muslim.“ No. Once an allocated time for one faith to keep a service is permitted, their religious rules would enjoy broad discretion on who they allow, and who they don’t. It would not be surprising if an orthodox congregation would not allow anyone in its Shabbat who’s not a Jew. It could be an issue if the airport operated on its own expense a room but only for one religion and no other, and not a multifate one or none.
    – kisspuska
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 7:09
  • @kisspuska That may depend on local legislation. Also, I wasn't referring to services, but to the location itself. Not permitting somebody of a different faith to enter a [Synagogue] (never) could be considered discrimination. In either case, in a modern world, denying entry to somebody doesn't make sense unless you want to make others suspicious about your intents and the purpose of your assembly.
    – PMF
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 7:20
  • "but then he can just wait for half an hour or so" - not really. Some devote Muslims need to pray at very specific times: islamic-relief.org.uk/islamic-resources/prayer-timetables/… Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 8:34
  • @MartinBonnersupportsMonica I suppose there are exceptions to this rule, namely while traveling? It's not possible to roll out a carpet while on a plane.
    – PMF
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 8:53
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    @PMF There are exceptions, and obedience to prayer doesn't necessarily require one to "roll out a carpet". The Quran says "So keep your duty to Allah and fear Him as much as you can." and the Prophet Muhammad PBUH said "When I command you to do a thing, do as much of it as you can."
    – user35069
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 10:00

It depends on the extent to which any chapel is provided. Under 42 USC 2000a, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of religion in a place of public accommodation. An airport could set aside a room for vague "quiet contemplation", but it could not specifically limit the use to Catholic prayers or Buddhist meditation. Illegal discrimination is not just based on a filter "If Muslim, no entry", it also includes practices with discriminatory effects. If a seemingly-neutral facility is closed during the times for Muslim prayers, that would be clearly discriminatory. A legally untested question is whether a facility could get in legal trouble if it does not provide male-only and female-only prayer facilities, given the premise (by some in Islam) that men and women should not pray together, likewise in Judaism (note that sex discrimination in public accommodations is allowed).

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