There is an interesting case out of Berkeley, Illinois involving alleged religious discrimination. The Obama Administration is supporting former teacher Safoorah Khan who alleged discrimination at her middle school after she was refused leave of three weeks to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca. The school insists that she was the only math lab instructor and would have left at the critical end-of-semester period for the school.
I am not sure of this claim and would love to hear from our readers with knowledge of Islam. My understanding is that Hajj is not required but is encouraged for Muslims in their lifetime. This is the fifth pillar of Islam and only required once for able-bodied Muslims who can afford it. The question then is why this one date is treated as mandatory by the Obama Administration. Three weeks is a long time for a requested leave and I would feel the same way about a teacher demanding a Christian or Jewish pilgrimage.
In this case, Khan resigned and went on the trip.
I have long commended the Obama Administration’s outreach to the Islamic community. I consider the efforts of President Obama to open a dialogue with Muslims here and abroad is one of his most positive legacies. However, I have obvious reservations over the Administration litigating this case on behalf of Khan. It seems to me that there are ample reasons for the denial of a 19-day leave.
What do you think?
Source: Washington Post
20 thoughts on “Obama Administration Supports Illinois Teacher’s Discrimination Claim After Being Denied Leave For Trip To Mecca”
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Hajj is mandatory guys thanks. Hajj is mandatory just as shahada and prayer.it is only not mandatory for aperson that year if he is unable. As a matter of fact allah says hajj is a duty owed by mankind
Irrespective of the religious aspect of this particular trip, I am reminded of a trip to Europe my parents took. My mom asked for a educational leave but she was not high enough “rank” at the university to get it. After told she was denied the sabbatical, she ran into her boss’s boss who asked “what now?” in a gleeful tone.
To which my mom replied: “I am going anyhow. I quit.” And she did. And I remember the trip we took to this day.
It sounds very similar to this:
“The school insists that she was the only math lab instructor and would have left at the critical end-of-semester period for the school.
In this case, Khan resigned and went on the trip.”
If Khan was so critical because she was the only math lab instructor, then maybe they should have let her go. As it was they still had to find a replacement. So the district still had to cover for when she was on the trip.
I bet she was back from the trip before the district found a permanent replacement. What if Khan was pregnant? would the district have denied her maternal leave?
This is just stupid HR management by the district.
Does this mean a new job is available….I might be interested…..not…
Thanks for the update.
i was just scanning the article to see if it was something i wanted to read and for a moment thought it said she was a “meth lab instructor”.
The hajj pilgrimage must always be during a specific month of the Muslim calendar, which shifts in relation to the Julian calendar every year (the Muslim year is lunar-based and only 354 days). Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajj.
So, as someone else noted, it will fall during summer break after nine years. While I appreciate her desire not to wait a whole decade, waiting even two years would have at least placed her well outside the end of the fall semester, when bringing in a substitute might have been feasible without heavy disruption.
I’ve been trying to find information on the Hajj. I read somewhere that it lasts about five days. Did the teacher really need to request a leave of absence for nineteen days?
From AOL News (12/14/2010)
Khan began teaching math at the district’s McArthur Middle School in 2007. According to court documents, she wrote to the school superintendent in August 2008, asking for an unpaid leave from Dec. 1-19 that year to travel to Mecca on the pilgrimage.
The district denied her request, noting that the “purpose of her leave was not related to her professional duties,” the Justice Department said. The legal challenge filed Monday states that “because Berkeley School District denied her a religious accommodation, the district compelled Ms. Khan to choose between her job and her religious beliefs, and thus forced her discharge.”
The lawsuit aims to prevent school districts from discriminating against teachers on the basis of religion. Khan also wants her job back, along with back pay and other damages for pain and suffering, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
There is a good analysis at the Volokh Conspiracy.
Mr. (Prof.?) Volokh points out that: ”The EEOC and the Justice Department have on several occasions sued on behalf of Worldwide Church of God members, claiming they have a right to religious accommodation [for 10 days off each year.]” He goes on to say that this precedent, and other items he discusses, show that the Gov’t is “acting pretty much the way that it’s supposed to act when a claim of violation of American antidiscrimination law is raised.”
Mr. Volokh and the accompanying comments also demonstrate that determining whether the request could have been “reasonably accommodated” is likely to be fact intensive.
Does the Hajj fall on the exact same dates every year–or do the dates vary from year to year?
“This was the first year she was financially able to do it,” Memon said. “It’s her religious belief that a Muslim must go for hajj quickly . . . that it’s a sin to delay.” Khan declined to comment.”
That may be her belief but, could she also financially afford to lose her job?
Had she not been able to financially afford to lose her job then this was not the first year she was financially able to make the trip.
Substitutes make less than a salaried teacher. In my district, they received a set per diem payment.
Thanks Elaine and Stamford,
I don’t think a sub is paid more than a teacher. I am pretty sure it is less. The information that Elaine provided makes me think we are dealing with an stubborn district that won’t make reasonable accomodations, but the facts are still not complete.
Hajj does fall at the same time every year. And, Muslims are encouraged to attend it at least once in their lifetime, but it is not mandatory and one needn’t attend every year.
I agree with you re: substitute teacher taking an unpaid sabbatical … I would have to imagine she would have given the district enough notice for them to shore up a substitute. Are substitutes on the same pay scale as a fully employed teacher?
Here’s an excerpt from the Washington Post article:
Khan, 29, who grew up in North Carolina and Arkansas, was happy in the job, said her lawyer, Kamran A. Memon. But she longed to make the hajj, one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith, which Muslims are obligated to do once. It would not have fallen on her summer break for about nine years.
“This was the first year she was financially able to do it,” Memon said. “It’s her religious belief that a Muslim must go for hajj quickly . . . that it’s a sin to delay.” Khan declined to comment.
Without having all of the facts, this case is a bit of mystery. Does the Hajj fall at the same time every year? If it does, the teacher would never be able to attend it, as long as she was working as a teacher. In that light, I can understand her position. Couldn’t a substitute teacher be obtained for the time period and was the teacher offered the chance to take an unpaid leave in order to attend as to not cost the District any additional money for the sub? I will have to check the Tribune and see if their is any information about this case there.
I watched a documentary on the National Geographic Channel last year called, “Inside Mecca.” If you can catch its next airing, I recommend watching it. I found it very interesting in that it follows three Muslims, each from different economic and social standings, each from different perspectives, in their pilgrimage to Mecca for the Hajj.
At any rate, as TMYK as correctly stated, the Hajj is not mandatory but is recommended for those with the means and time.
BooHoo Diaperhead didn’t get to go and keep its job. That is good, more real American’s that want to work can do so. Boohoo.
“or the administration is choosing to pursue an exceedingly wrong-headed course of action.”
Seems to be par for the course lately.
The Hajj is indeed not required but is encouraged for Muslims who are able-bodied, and have the means to do so, at least once in their lifetime.
I do not understand the administration’s stance on this at all. Public school teacher aren’t allowed to take three weeks off during the academic year for any reason at all that doesn’t have to do with disability or severe illness (my wife is a high-school teacher, and she gets no downtime at all – three sick days a year unless accompanied by medical release). For a religious holiday that is non-mandatory?
I understand outreach to the Muslim community but this isn’t that. This is something that to me is utterly inexplicable (and before someone else throws the canard out there, no, Obama is not a “secret Muslim” – give me a break). Either there are facts that are not in the story and that we’ve not been informed of, or the administration is choosing to pursue an exceedingly wrong-headed course of action.
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