Hajj Settlement is a Dangerous Precedent



Department of Justice should never have intervened in Safoorah Khan’s case against Berkeley, Ill School District

PHOENIX (October 19, 2011) – Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a devout Muslim and the president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) issued the following statement regarding the settlement of U.S. vs. Board of Education, Berkeley School District 87, Cook County, Illinois:

“The decision announced on Thursday, October 13, 2011 of the Berkeley Board of Education to settle a lawsuit with the Department of Justice (DOJ) will have implications that reach far beyond the case of Safoorah Khan, a non-tenured computer math lab teacher who had worked for the district for just a little over one-year. In her suit Ms. Khan alleged that the district forced her to choose between her religion and her livelihood when it denied her request for three weeks of unpaid leave to perform Hajj in 2008. The board denied the request twice because it did not meet the requirements of the union contract which gave uniform standards for leave that applied to all employees.

While AIFD believes religious freedom is a cornerstone of American constitutional civil liberties the adjudication of the conflict between an arbitrary demand of an employee that cloaks themselves in religion and an employer who must treat all employees equally is a critical fault line in the battle between theocracy and secular society.

While I am sure the pressure on the board to settle was immense with DOJ’s involvement, it is lamentable because it creates a dangerous precedent by lowering the threshold of what merits action for civil rights abuse.

In Ms. Khan’s case the federal government has taken the wrong side. By championing Ms. Khan’s case which stepped outside of the contract that she and all other certified staff signed with the Berkeley School District, DOJ is essentially making Muslims a privileged class. The interpretation this case demands speaks contrary to the very principle of “ensuring that workplaces are free of bias,” that Jacqueline A. Berrien, Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claims to promote.

The DOJ and their choir of Islamist groups have deceptively positioned that Muslims like Ms. Khan “should not have to choose between their religious practice and their livelihood.” Contrarily, I believe that employers should not have to choose between the threat of intimidation from Islamists or the federal government and honoring the onerous and ultimately limitless demands of any single faith group or individual as a privileged class.

By forcing this settlement the DOJ is empowering an Islamist mindset that demands special consideration above all others which is unacceptable in a society where all are equal before the law.

Further the terms of the settlement are chilling in their Orwellian dictate that Berkeley provide mandatory training on religious accommodation to all board of education members, supervisors, managers, administrators and human resources officials who participate in decisions on religious accommodation requests made by its employees and prospective employees. It is incredulous to us that the Government is now entering into the business of teaching which versions of religion are politically correct and which ones are not.

Ms. Khan’s request was outside the scope of the Union Contract she signed. The Berkeley officials treated her as an equal to her peers and have now lost a civil rights case for that equal treatment. It seems completely contradictory to the intent of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which this case was filed under. With Ms. Khan, DOJ has essentially reconstituted a separate but equal status for American Muslims.”

About the American Islamic Forum for Democracy

The American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. AIFD’s mission advocates for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state. For more information on AIFD, please visit our website at http://www.aifdemocracy.org/.



Gordon C. James Public Relations



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