Thursday, March 31, 2011

Are pilgrimages to Mecca a civil right?

Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, was 2010's Person Of The Year for this website. 
He achieved this by outlawing the Kindle ebook readers as a substitute for college textbooks.  (They discriminate against the blind.  Swear to God, that's the argument he used.)  

Well, Perez is back in action, going for back-to-back trophies. 

A middle-school math teacher who happens to be a Muslim asked for three weeks off work so she could make a pilgrimage to Mecca. 
As she had only worked for the district for nine months, and the time off would've disrupted the end of semester exam schedule.  The teacher, Safoorah Khan, was the school's only math teacher. 

Khan said to hell with it, I'm going to Mecca. 

Ok, a brief digression here....Is there any other group you would've suspected of this type behavior other than government employees?  Just wondering....
Justice Department lawyers examined the same set of facts and reached a different conclusion: that the school district’s decision amounted to outright discrimination against Khan. They filed an unusual lawsuit, accusing the district of violating her civil rights by forcing her to choose between her job and her faith.

Now I have to confess something.  I, too, have made people choose between their jobs and their superstitions.  For about a year and a half, I ran a chain of bookstore/coffee bars at D/FW airport.  One of them was a total mess.  I went in one morning and the line of customers was out the freakin' door.  There was only one employee working the register, making the cappuccinos, and ringing up books.  Customers were pissed. 
I asked the employee where (I'm making up names here) Raffi and Muhammad were.  She said they were in the back room.  I helped her work the line of customers down to a manageable level, and then stomped into the back room. 
Raffi and Muhammad were kneeling on rugs in the back room with their noses pointed toward Mecca and their asses pointed toward Lubbock, Texas. 
"WHAT IN THE HELL ARE YOU ****ING IDIOTS DOING?"  I said politely.  "We've had customers out the door." 
Raffi and Muhammad explained that it was prayer time.  I explained that they could talk to Allah during their lunch break.  They disagreed.  I explained that I was purchasing their time and effort, and that other people were willing to sell me their time and effort, people who might not need to shut down work to commune with The Prophet. 
I made them choose between their faith and their jobs. 
Was I wrong? 
Should I have made accomodations for them?  Brought other employees into the airport for 20-minute shifts to accomodate Raffi and Muhammad's spiritual requirements? 

Anyway, Thomas Perez has not yet made his entrance into this story.  Sorry for the digression.  Here he comes....
“It sounds like a very dubious judgment and a real legal reach,” said Michael B. Mukasey, who was attorney general in the George W. Bush administration. “The upper reaches of the Justice Department should be calling people to account for this.”


His successors in the Obama administration counter that they are upholding a sacred principle: the right of every American to be free of religious bias in the workplace. “This was a profoundly personal request by a person of faith,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights, who compared the case to protecting “the religious liberty that our forefathers came to this country for.”
You gotta love him. 
I believe that one of the other liberties that our forefathers came here for was the liberty to employ people who can work through a rush hour without stopping to plant their foreheads on D/FW Airport concrete for 20 minutes.  But I'm a minority opinion more and more these days. 

Perez denied any political motive in the Berkeley lawsuit, saying it was pursued in part to fight “a real head wind of intolerance against Muslim communities.” People in the rapidly growing Muslim community in Chicago’s western suburbs praised the Justice Department’s involvement.


He's lying.  See the next paragraph in the article. 
“It rings the bell of justice that they will fight for a Muslim wanting to perform a religious act,” said Shaykh Abdool Rahman Khan, resident scholar at the Islamic Foundation mosque near Berkeley. “That certainly can win the hearts of many people in the Muslim world.”
I didn't think that was what our justice department should be up to, but there you have it. 
Although the Justice Department, including during the Bush administration, and private plaintiffs have filed civil rights lawsuits on religious grounds, they have tended to be over issues such as whether employees can take off on the Sabbath or wear religious head coverings.

Cases involving the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, or hajj, are exceedingly rare, said Christina Abraham, civil rights director for the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Sorry for the lack of top-quality posts for the last two weeks.  We're trying to open a new warehouse, and are violating the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian sabbaths while doing so.  Don't bother asking for a job unless you are willing to occasionally work on all of them. 

2 comments:

Harper said...

Hmmm, I believe the Bible says, in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, to 'pray without ceasing'. You can accommodate that, right?

The Mister has a Seventh Day Adventist employee that was demanding the Saturday Sabbath off, but then had great stories of all the 'fun' non-religious things she was doing with her time. She is now scheduled the overnight shift, with a report time of 12 AM each Sunday morning.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

I am now a member of the Allenista faith. Please address me from now on by my Allenista name, which is "Lord Nekthar". Otherwise, I will see you in court.

One of the tenents of the Allenistas is that we can take off work for Texas Rangers' Opening Day, Charlie Robison concerts, or bluegrass festivals.

You must be prepared to meet my needs, or I will see you in court.