The New Jersey branch of the Islamic Circle of North America ("The organization of Islamic Workers!") announces that Sept. 17 will be "The Great Muslim Adventure Day" at the local Six Flags Great Adventure Park. Not only is "This event is designed to provide entertainment for the entire family!" not only will Imam Zaid Shakir lead the Friday prayers at 2 p.m., and not only will the comedy routine "Allah Made Me Funny" show twice, but "Alhamdulillah, the entire park is reserved for Muslims only!" If that message is not clear enough, the advertisement also states "First Time Ever! Entire park exclusively for Muslims!" One wonders how the organizers know who is a Muslim or not. Need one recite the shahada to enter the fairgrounds? It is scandalous that Six Flags – a publicly held corporation whose stock trades on the NYSE – allows such a restriction for access to its property. Oh, and will the employees also have to be Muslim? (September 10, 2004)
Sept. 15, 2004 update: Aaron Klein wrote about the "Muslims only!" policy at Six Flags Great Adventure on Sept. 13 and included a statement from a Six Flags executive stating that the park would be reserved for "Muslims and their friends" (a very different and quite acceptable formulation); Klein also quotes comments by Beila Rabinowitz (who first raised alarms about this issue) and myself disapproving of the ICNA statement. Within hours of his article appearing, Klein today reports, "the ICNA website removed all references to exclusive use of the park," and indeed that is what one finds at its overhauled website. So, good news: entrants to the park will not have to establish their Muslim identities to enter the property.
Sept. 18, 2004 update: Not surprisingly, ICNA misstated what had happened at Six Flags. Here is the New York Times account:
Earlier this week, the words "for Muslims only" were removed from the sponsor's Internet advertisement for the event. Adem Carroll, a relief coordinator and spokesman for Islamic Circle of North America, said the event was never intended to exclude others, particularly because many of its members are in mixed families, with Muslims and non-Muslims. The intent instead was to provide a protected environment for those seeking to relax.
This is obviously self-contradictory. More dismaying yet is that Kristin Siebeneicher, Six Flags' spokeswoman, also distorted what happened. Here again is the Times account: Siebeneicher
said she spent the week in interviews with radio performers from New Jersey, California, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma who wanted to know why the park was turning its rides over to Muslims and shutting everyone else out for the day. "The concerns are that they believe the event is exclusionary," Ms. Siebeneicher said. "I don't think most people understood it was a day we're closed anyway, and we were not taking something away from the public to give to a private group."
This misstates the issue. It was not that the general public was excluded but that ICNA was imposing a "Muslims only!" policy. Why does a publicly held corporation dissemble like this? Surely, that cannot help a company already losing attendance and in financial trouble.
July 22, 2005 update: Here we go again. The Islamic Circle of North America's New Jersey branch announces:
Insha Allah, on September 16, 2005, the New Jersey theme park, Six Flags Great Adventure, is set to be transformed as ‘The Great Muslim Adventure Day', an event organized by ICNA. This event is designed to provide entertainment for the entire family! Alhamdulillah, the entire park is reserved for Muslims!
I also have in my possession a paper flyer that uses similar words: "ALL DAY! ENTIRE PARK! RESERVED FOR MUSLIMS!"
Comment: When this formulation was exposed a year ago (see above entries), ICNA cancelled the "Muslims only" restriction and its spokesman reassuringly stated that the event was never intended to exclude others. So, why is it again "reserved for Muslims!" and what does Six Flags, Inc.have to say about this illegal restriction?
Sep. 16, 2005 update: The Newark Star-Ledger reports that, as last year, the park is really not "reserved for Muslims!"
not everyone at the park today will be Muslim. Organizers expect guests to bring non-Muslim friends and family members. And even though the park's Web site and phone number say Six Flags is closed to the public, nobody will be turned away, organizers said. "We both agreed anyone who shows up, if they choose, can buy a ticket," said park spokeswoman Kristen Siebeneicher.
June 30, 2006 update: As usual, things are worse in the United Kingdom. An organization called Islamic Leisure has booked Alton Towers in Staffordshire, the country's largest amusement park, for September 17, 2006, which it calls the "First National Muslim Fun Day." Islamic Leisure boasts "exclusive access for our guests" at the park that day. An Islamic Leisure press released posted by the Muslim Public Affairs Council (a British organization, unconnected to the Los Angeles-based group with the same name) says even more explicitly that the event "has been booked exclusively for our brothers and sisters."
According to an account today in London's Sun, "Non-Muslims phoning the Staffordshire park have been refused tickets." It quotes George Hughes of Crayford, Kent, 19, who rang up for tickets to celebrate a friend's birthday and was refused admission: "I couldn't believe it. It's the only day we can go, yet I can't because I'm not Muslim. Can you imagine all the fuss if there was a Christians-only day? What's the world coming to when people are being banned from flying the St George's flag yet this sort of day is allowed?"
July 11, 2006 update: Amanda Morris and Scott Lee may have booked their two-day wedding celebration at Alton Towers 18 months ago – well before Islamic Leisure rented out the park, but the couple will have to follow Shar‘i dictates, says Yaseen Patel, director of Islamic Leisure. That means married couples cannot take rides together, women must cover their bodies, a ban on music in public places, gaming machines shut down, Halal food only, and no alcohol, as the couple with their 60 guests share the park with as many as 28,000 Muslims. Morris, 30, called it "like a nightmare, we have been planning this for so long and now this happens." To make matters worse, the couple only found out about the problem in June 2006, when Alton Towers sent letters to their guests advising them: "While the park will remain accessible to you on this day, due to the numbers expected you may wish to change your booking." To make up for the inconvenience, Islamic Leisure offered the Morris and Lee two complimentary tickets.
Aug. 2, 2006 update: The "First National Muslim Fun Day" has been cancelled. Alton Towers says Islamic Leisure called it off due to "insufficient ticket sales." That's putting it mildly; according to the Sun, just 1,000 out of 28,000 tickets were sold. Park management understandably said it is "disappointed" that the fun day was canceled.
ICNA's logo for the 2006 "Great Muslim Adventure Day"
Aug. 15, 2006 update: Back to ICNA and the Six Flags Park: for the third consecutive year, the ICNA ad for "The Great Muslim Adventure Day," this time on September 15, includes discriminatory language, this time "Alhamdulillah, the entire park is reserved for Muslims!"
Apr. 17, 2008 update: For a similar "Muslim only" problem, but at a municipal swimming pool, see the report on an East London leisure center.
Sep. 27, 2008 update: ICNA has made the best of its having to allow in non-Muslims, according to a news article telling about its rental of the Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park in New Jersey:
After Labor Day, Great Adventure is closed on weekdays. The Islamic Circle rented the park, which will be open to all, with tickets available at full price at the gate, said Angel Aristone, a spokeswoman for Great Adventure. Discount tickets are available through the Islamic Circle at the event's Web site: http://6flags.icnanj.org. Non-Muslim families are encouraged to attend the event to foster friendships and fun, [ICNA New Jersey spokesman Ashfaq] Parkar said. "This adds richness to the diversity of people we see and interact with," he said. "Since Eid is a family centered event, we especially encourage Muslims to invite and bring their non-Muslim relatives and friends with them."