Islam Driving the Social and Legal Agenda in the West
by Daniel Pipes
"We never experienced this with Judaism … or Christianity." So spoke Robert Paladino, superintendent of schools in Cliffside Park, N.J., reports the Bergen Record.
He was responding to a request by a seventh-grade girl named Yasmeen Elsamra, 12, for "a place to pray during lunch period. Paladino did some research and concluded that the school must accede to her request. As a result, Yasmeen goes during lunch period to an empty social studies classroom, puts down her prayer rug, faces Mecca, and performs the Islamic prayers.
Looking beyond the church-state issues raised by this decision, what is noteworthy is the extent to which Islam, not the traditional religions present in the United States, much less other religions new to the country, is driving the social and legal agenda. (November 10, 2003)
Jan. 30, 2004 update: Another case comes from France in the light of the impending ban on the headscarf worn by Muslim women, as reported today by Agence France-Presse. When two Benedictine sisters from the Martigné-Briand monastery went to the government offices to renew their papers, one an identity card and the other a passport, they were refused on the grounds of their head-coverings. "This is the first time such a problem came up," explained one of the nuns. "We are not against the law, of course. We have redone our pictures without head-coverings, but this leaves us perplexed."
Mar. 25, 2004 update: In a handsome "Proclamation by the Governor," Nevada's Kenny C. Guinn does hereby proclaim April 30, 2004 to be "Muslim Family Value Day in Nevada." One can just imagine how the roof would fall in on him were he ever to dare attempt proclaim a "Christian Family Value Day in Nevada."
June 9, 2004 update: "The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska today filed a federal civil rights lawsuit," reads a press release issued today,
(Feb. 22, 2005 update: Lubna Hussein won her case.)
June 23, 2004 update: A labor and employment attorney said he had never heard of a similar case, reports The Tennessean today. The matter concerns Ibrahim Barzinji, a Nashville resident, who (with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission agreement) filed suit in federal court against his former employer, the J.B. Hunt Transport Inc., the largest publicly held truck and train company in the United States. Barzinji, 42, said he had just trucked a load of auto parts from Clarksville to St. Louis on June 26 last year when he was asked to pick up a return load at an Anheuser-Busch plant. "When I saw it was a beer company, I called my dispatcher and said, 'I can't do this. It's against my religion,'" A supervisor responded by telling him to "choose between my job and this load." Barzinji was given a non-alcoholic load and then was fired.
July 12, 2004 update: A Muslim issue in Canada is prompting the government to rely on royal prerogative in an unsual case. For details, see "[The Khadrs:] Canada's First Family of Terrorism," under today's date.
Oct. 19, 2004 update: Rafil Dhafir, the oncologist accused of defrauding contributors to Help the Needy, the charity he founded, and of illegally sending money to Iraq, told the judge in his case that he could not attend his trial if it meant being strip-searched. The Syracuse Post-Standard reports his statement to the court:
Apparently impressed, U.S. District Judge Norman Mordue decided to permit Dhafir to avoid the search and instead remain under the constant scrutiny of the deputy U.S. marshals guarding him. All concerned said this is an unprecedented privilege. Onondaga County's corrections commissioner, Timothy Cowin, worried that other inmates would use this precedent as a way to avoid strip searches but then consoled himself with the thought that "we'll probably never see another case like this in our lifetime."
This same issue prompted a lesser precedent too. Unable to move the mountain to him, Judge Mordue went to it. More precisely, given the strip-search issue, he traveled to Onondaga County's penitentiary and heard testimony in the jail's visitors' room – also apparently a first. Nov. 14, 2005 update: Dhafir has by now been convicted and begun serving his 22-year term, and still he refuses to undergo a strip search, but that refusal now has consequences for him:
Jan. 15, 2005 update: In what Paul Stokes of London's Daily Telegraph calls "a landmark case for religious discrimination," Mohammed Sajwal Khan won a case today in Leeds against his employer, NIC Hygiene. Khan asked to use his 25 days of holiday time and unpaid leave to go on the hajj to Mecca. When he received no response, his union and his manager advised him that he could go. He traveled to Mecca in January-February 2004 and when he returned he was suspended without pay, then sacked for gross misconduct in March. A tribunal awarded him £10,000 in compensation. "Lawyers believe," writes Stokes, that Khan's "unfair dismissal and discrimination victory could have implications for similar actions such as those where companies insist on Christians working Christmas Day."
Nov. 17, 2005 update: Secular universities don't normally provide prayer space for their students – that's something that religious denominations are invited to do at their own expense. But Muslims are changing this assumption in Canada, starting with three universities in Montreal.
Other Canadian universities are watching McGill; how the matter is resolved there is likely to have national importance. Nov. 28, 2005 update: As the MSA, with CAIR's support, prepares to bring this issue before Quebec's Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse, McGill's Vice-Principal (Communications) Jennifer Robinson noted that Ismaili Muslim students have an off-campus prayer space and complained about the MSA that it "wants special treatment … [and] special privileges."
Nov. 21, 2005 update: Rigid secularism, what the French call laïcité, is a key feature of France since 1789. But in Marseilles, a city with a population estimated to be one-quarter Muslim, Mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin says that "The separation of the church and state does not exist much in Marseille." Andrew Higgins explores this subject in detail in a major Wall Street Journal analysis.
Nov. 22, 2005 update: Ever heard of a prayer area in a football stadium or basketball arena? Maybe in Iran, you answer, but not in the United States. Wrong: thanks to the detention of five Muslim men after they prayed at a New York Giants game on Sep. 19, 2005, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority has decided to create prayer areas at Giants Stadium and Continental Airlines Arena. As far as anyone knows, this is the first such sports stadium worship zone. It's a non-denominational space, of course, but again the agenda is driven by Islam.
The sports and exposition authority's president and chief executive, George Zoffinger, exuded the usual self-satisfaction of a functionary who accedes to Islamist demands:
Sami Shaban, one of the detained Muslims, praised the step. 'I think it's a very good start. I really appreciate it. I love the fact that we have a place to pray. That is an amazing step, I really like it." And Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, loves it too, of course, noting that "We've had prayer spaces allocated in hospitals, in airports and universities, places like that." Sohail Mohammed, an attorney for the Totowa-based American Muslim Union and lawyer for one of the men detained in September, said "It shows tolerance on both sides," adding that "It's a win-win for law enforcement, the Exposition Authority and the Muslim community." Mohammed also noted that the agreement included a prayer area at the Meadowlands Racetrack, but this probably would not be needed: "you won't get many Muslims using that area because gambling is forbidden in Islam."
Apr. 26, 2006 update: The U.S. Coast Guard has abandoned a rule requiring anyone seeking a merchant marine license to submit photographs showing no religious head coverings, thanks to a suit by the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Khalid Hakim, a Muslim. Hakim has served in the merchant marine while working for private shipping companies since 1973.
Dec. 5, 2006 update: Fitness USA, a chain of gymnasia operating in Michigan, has agreed to investigate an alleged civil rights violation concerning Wardeh Sultan of Dearborn, a Muslim woman who says her afternoon prayer was interrupted by another patron, and that management rejected her complaint. Recounts an outraged Sultan: "The manager told me, 'You have to respect her, but she does not have to respect your God." Sultan quotes herself telling the manager, "I can't believe you said that," adding that she felt humiliated and does not intend to return to Fitness USA.
Comment: It's not clear what the interruption consisted of, but the notion that prayer trumps exercise in a fitness center certainly is compatible with the Islamist agenda.
Dec. 8, 2006 update: After a woman in niqab was denied entry to a bus in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in accord with a security regulation dating from early 2006, the public transit system announced that the regulation has been rescinded. Instead, drivers will assess security as best they can, explains spokeswoman Jennifer Kalczuk. "If the operator senses some sort of security concern with other behavior, there are ways to communicate with dispatch. It's really up to the driver to assess the situation, and determine if, based on behavior or other cues he or she is getting, may need some assistance."
Nov. 22, 2007 update: The VVD party in Denmark has proposed banning cousin marriages because of the diseases that result from inbreeding. May 11, 2008 update: Anne Cryer, a Labour member of the British parliament, has called for a ban on cousin-marriage, claiming that this common Muslim practice is leading to a rise in the incidence of rare recessive disorders, many of them fatal. "We give warnings about the dangers of smoking, drinking and taking drugs. It is now time that primary care trusts started doing the same for cousin marriages." Mar. 20, 2010 update: Another British politiciain, this one a family professor as well, is warning against the rise in marriages between first cousins, saying this "is putting children's health at risk." Baroness Deech is calling for a "vigorous" public campaign to deter the practice. Some statistics: 55 percent of British Pakistanis are married to first cousins; whereas British Pakistanis represent 3 per cent of all births in Britain, they produce one third of children with recessive disorders.
Paul de Krom, a member of the Dutch parliament for the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).
Paul de Krom, a member of the Dutch parliament for the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).
Mar. 24, 2009 update: Paul de Krom, a member of the Dutch parliament for the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), says that the municipality of Utrecht spent thousand of euros on subsidies in 2008 for segregated Afghan, Iraqi, Iranian and Somali meetings in what he calls "the new apartheid between men and women."
Mar. 9, 2010 update: The emergence of Islamists who engage in crime as part of the jihad, rather than for personal benefit, could change one of the most basic precepts of American law enforcement, the "right to remain silent," known as Miranda rights. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed today that the Obama administration plans to work with Congress to propose possible changes to Miranda rights.
Specifically, Holder called for changes in the public safety exception that permits allows interrogators to hold off on reading a suspect his rights if they have reason to fear an imminent threat to public safety and need information fast.
June 4, 2012 update: The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Amina Farah Ali, 35, of Rochester, Minn., has the right not to stand when the judge enters the courtroom during her trial on charges of raising money for the terrorist group al-Shabaab. The appeals court, holding that Ali's refusal "was rooted in her sincerely held religious beliefs," threw out 19 of 20 contempt citations issued by Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis.
Mar. 11, 2013 update: See today's blog, " Excluding Jews and Others from Juries" for another example of this phenomenon.
Reader comments (35) on this item
Comment on this item
You can help support Daniel Pipes' work by making a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes