Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holder's DOJ in Action - Government Suing School System for time off for Haj Attendees

Safoorah Khan, a Muslim teacher, is getting help from the DOJ to sue her former employer; The Berkley School. What did they do? The denied her request for a three-week leave of absence to attend the Haj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. In their infinite wisdom the DOJ has decided that has violated the civil rights act of 1964.

The Haj is a religious duty of all Muslims that can make it. It is four days of rituals that are performed in different locations around the cities of Mecca and Medina. Muslims from all over the world show up for this event to pray, throw stones, perform some rituals that include walking around a structure 7 times and perform an animal sacrifice. After these rituals are performed they then partake in Eid al-Adha, a three-day festival to mark performing the rituals.

She made the request for the leave shortly after becoming employed by the school system. She requested the leave in both 2007 and 2008. The school system declined her request on both occasions. Shortly after the second time she was denied she quit her job and filed a complaint with the EEOC. While I understand that The Haj is a religious practice, I still don't see how this is a violation of the civil rights act. In order for it to be violations of her civil rights the school board would have to regularly be giving other people leave in order to perform their religious practices and refusing hers on the basis of that religion.

Now, why exactly is she asking for three weeks off when the Haj is only four days? I understand that you need a few days for travelling to Saudi Arabia, but that is only a day each way. I believe that you need to arrive for the Haj a couple of days in advance. So, she needs one day to fly there, lets say two days to gather for the trip to Medina, four days to complete the Haj, another day to return to Riyadh and then fly home.

The Haj is a tenet of the Islamic faith, but that tenet only says that people who are able need to attend. The Haj also is done by the Islamic calendar that is different from what the west is used to as it is based on phases of the moon. Every year the Haj is earlier in the year than the previous year by about 25 days. At some point it will be done while school is out of session.

These types of things just make me crazy. This woman's civil rights were not violated. After three months of employment she requested a leave of three weeks. It is not a stretch to assume that most employers would deny this request regardless of the person's faith. If the request would be denied to a Christian or a person of another faith then how exactly is this a civil rights issue? Most other faiths don't require this type of ritual that would require a three-week leave from work, so they are not requesting leave. This woman isn't looking for equal protection under the law, she is looking for special treatment. Sadly, our Justice Department is just too happy to oblige. If the lawsuit is successful, she will get her job back as well as back pay, even though she voluntarily left her position.

Cross posted at PotLuck

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