At the end of the Obama era, conservative U.S. Christians are expressing more worries about their religious liberties than they have for a very long time.
Yet devout Muslims face their own challenges. So journalists might ask Christian strategists whether these rival religions might unite on future legal confrontations and, right now, whether they support Muslims on, say, NIMBY disputes against mosques, while also asking Muslim leaders about Christians’ concerns.
As Christianity Today magazine editorializes in the June issue, the U.S. “will be stronger if people of faith – not just of Christian faith – are free to teach and enact their beliefs in the public square without fear of discrimination or punishment by the government.”
This story theme is brought to mind by two simultaneous news items.
On May 24 the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a federal bias complaint about Muslim workers at Wisconsin’s Ariens Company, which makes snow blowers and lawn mowers. Christian Science Monitor reportage said Ariens granted two daily breaks from the assembly line for required Muslim prayer times but some workers needed three. After negotiations fizzled, the company fired seven Muslims and 14 others quit.
On May 25, the education board for Switzerland’s Basel canton, with teacher’s union support, rejected appeals to exempt Muslim students from the expected daily shaking of teachers’ hands out of respect. The New York Times said the board acknowledged that strict Muslims believe that after puberty they shouldn’t touch someone of the opposite sex except for close relatives, but hand-shaking doesn’t “involve the central tenets of Islam.”
Both incidents show ignorance of, or lack of respect toward, Islam.
Since 1997, CAIR has published pamphlets by Mohamed Nimer of American University that inform schools, employers and medical facilities about the Muslim view of practical issues, for instance:
* Muslim students and workers should be accommodated in celebrating two annual Eids (festivals). However, scheduling is tricky because the exact date depends on sighting of the new moon and isn’t fixed till the night before. During the Ramadan fasting month, students should be allowed to spend lunchtimes outside cafeterias and be excused from strenuous physical activity. Many Muslims will be reluctant to mark celebrations of other religions’ holidays, and will shun workplace events if alcohol is served.
* Because “Islam puts great emphasis on modesty, chastity and morality,” sex education class materials should be available for review and parents granted “the option to remove their children from all or part of the program.” Since Muslims often feel social studies and history classes “contribute to religious prejudice,” qualified Muslim educators should help choose textbooks.
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