Watch Out for Those Fast(ing) Little Muslims

A good bud recently sent a link to an article describing legal action the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund took against two school districts in the Seattle area. According to the article, “The schools are accused of implementing pro-Ramadan policies that are being followed during the Islamic holy month. . . .”

It seems the Washington chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) sent an email advising schools how to care for Muslim students during Ramadan. They encouraged greeting Muslim students with Ramadan Mubarak (Happy Ramadan), providing a location to sit out lunch and not scheduling finals on Eid, the celebration at the end of Ramadan.

At least two school districts passed the guidelines on to their principles and teachers. When a teacher and some parents complained, the FCDF stepped in, saying the schools were, “running roughshod over the First Amendment’s mandate of government neutrality toward religion.”

To me, the CAIR guidelines seem more a helpful tool for schools with growing Muslim populations than advocacy for special treatment or something more nefarious. Yet the media reports generally don’t see it that way, sometimes emphatically decrying the situation.

So what do you think is going on here?

  1. Is it a component of a slippery slope toward too much Islamic influence, even domination?
  2. If you can’t say Merry Christmas in school, you should not say Ramadan Mubarak?
  3. Christianity is losing its status as the religion of the state and Muslims are the ones who currently get the blame?
  4. Something else entirely?

My initial, admittedly cynical, thought is that the alarm is designed to get page views and generate ad revenue. And (really cynically) maybe to keep those Muslims and other foreigners in check. But I honestly want to understand better what’s going on. What are your thoughts? Care to comment? I’d be grateful if you did.

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27 Comments

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27 Responses to Watch Out for Those Fast(ing) Little Muslims

  1. Kenneth Munn

    1. I view individual Muslims and Islam differently. I have known many Muslims and value their friendship and am convinced that they value mine as well. I would feel no hesitation to say Ramadan Mubarak to them. Islam, especially as represented by CAIR is very much interested in the spread of Islam and “entering or taking control” of new territory. I am not as trusting of their motives.
    2. If a school district limits “religious” speech on one group it should apply to all equally.
    3. They shouldn’t be. Christians are the only ones to blame for the state of Christianity today. It has been reduced down to a cultural self centered parody.
    4. Who knows! I tend to be suspicious of anything that CAIR is involved in. It seems to me that more Salafis are involved in leadership than the more moderate Muslims.

  2. Jim H

    I think your phraseology is too slanted in #2. Personally, I don’t see it as a “if I can’t, you can’t” situation. Though I am sure some will. I see it more as an opportunity for all religious groups to band together to bring back the REAL truth – that our constitution does not say anything about a “Separation of church and state”. It says that the government can’t establish a religion. Perhaps joint efforts can bring sanity back to the schools. And values, and character that represent the community that provides the students.

    • shanedar

      Hey Jim, I tend to agree with you on this. Allowing for full and fair interaction seems more life-giving and robust than policies of limitation and restriction.

  3. PJ Franklin

    I feel free to say “Merry Christmas” to someone unless I know that they do not celebrate Christmas. If it’s a stranger I’m fairly cautious. I did wish “Happy Ramadan” this week to a vendor whom I know is Muslim, and he seemed very pleased.

    As for the schools, I think that it’s entirely appropriate to set aside a section of the cafeteria for Muslims who will not be eating. Others have the freedom to sit wherever. As long as non-Muslims are not coerced into following Muslim practice, it’s not a violation of freedom of religion.

    I want to take Shane’s advice and ask my two young Muslim friends what Ramadan means to them, and how I can pray. (I always pray privately that Jesus will be revealed to them.)

    • shanedar

      Hey PJ, Thank you for reading and posting a comment. I’d love to hear how this goes, “I want to take Shane’s advice and ask my two young Muslim friends what Ramadan means to them, and how I can pray.”

  4. Doug Gentry

    As I write this, I am in Germany visiting three refugee friends that I met while volunteering in Athens. I have driven 1400 hundred kilometres, to three different cities to connect with them and it has been so worth it. They are very dear to my wife and me and we to them. It pains me that some of my countrymen (and even some Christians) are not willing to try to understand those who worship differently and reach out in friendship. I am usually sceptical of CAIR’s motives but in this instance I think it’s more about keeping those different than us in check.

  5. Lisa

    Even though my gut response is to roll my eyes at the FCDF, I think I have some insight into their perspective because my context growing up has been pretty politically conservative, and my parents are still mostly there.
    I think it’s mostly about a growing frustration with the double standard of Christianity and Islam among liberals and “the media.” It’s perfectly fine to denigrate Christians, call them stupid, mock their deity openly, portray them as idiots in entertainment, etc. Any brief foray into the comments section leads to encountering actual hate speech toward Christians.
    I think to a liberal mindset, this is OK, because Christians are the majority. And there’s pretty much a blanket go-ahead for taking down the majority.
    But it’s frustrating when this same group doesn’t acknowledge the hypocrisy of how they then respond to Muslims: Work to make sure they’re not discriminated against, promote a safe space for their worship, fight against hate speech and make sure their prophet isn’t disrespected. From a liberal perspective, Muslims are a persecuted minority, so we must defend them.
    I’ve personally received disrespect for my faith that I find myself wanting to respond to by saying, “Would you have the same response to a Muslim regarding their beliefs?”
    I think in this actual case, these steps re: Ramadan are very reasonable. But I think the knee-jerk reaction comes from a legitimate frustration with a perceived effort to shut down and demean Christianity at every turn while blindly promoting the flourishing of Islam. I also think there’s awful ethnocentrism and fear at work as well, but I wanted to mention the above to maybe promote understanding.

    • shanedar

      This is good food for thought, Lisa. Thank you for taking the time to respond thoroughly and wisely. I appreciate your input.

  6. Donna Butler

    We make accommodations for other groups (for example, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not required to salute the flag). This seems like common sense to me.

  7. I’m looking forward to CAIR advocating for the reading of the Nativity accounts from the gospels. If they truly care, let them care for the Truth.

  8. Roger

    Shane,
    May I have a phone number at which I can send you a text?

    Roger

  9. R

    I met my wife at a conference on Muslim evangelism, and have worked with Muslims for 30 years since. We have Muslim friends, and they appreciate our friendship.

    I am also part of the Constitution Party, whose stated aims are to honor Jesus Christ, and to honor the constitution as originally written.

    The shocking thing, though, is NOT that the Constitution said nothing about the separation of church and state, though that was the original intent. The particular phrasing is from a letter by Thomas Jefferson, but all the founders abhorred the idea of the Christian nation establishing a particular religion.

    The shocking thing is that by “religion” they meant what we would now call a denomination. On the other hand, animism, Buddhism, Hinduism, paganism, and Islam WERE NOT DEFINED AS RELIGIONS! So, from the point of view of the Framers of the Constitution, it is NOT unconstitutional to prevent Muslims from holding office, from voting, etc., etc. All these “faiths” were defined as irreligious paganism.

    Do I tell my Muslim friends that? Well, yes, I do, but in the context that unfortunately the Christians in this country have lost the understanding of how the USA can be a Christian country without being a theocracy. It never was a theocracy, but a one time was explicitly a Christian country that denied the ability of any one particular Christian sect to dominate the political marketplace.

    There was language that no particular “sect” could be preferred, nor any religious test required to hold office. But it WAS required that one adhere to the Christian religion (no other was recognized), to swear or affirm on the Bible, and to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (the last being critical).

    My friends appreciate my Christian faith; those who subscribe to the dogma of CAIR do not. Anything that is done to oppose their agenda is a very good thing.

    We have a Muslim caregiver for our daughter, and we appreciate her. She works hard, is caring, and we wish her a Ramadan Mubarak.

    Thank you, Shane, for your work. You bring a balanced approach to the issues surrounding Islam. May God bless you!

  10. Beth de Wit

    As a citizen of The Netherlands I can’t say anything about CAIR.
    I Agree to save a quiet corner for those who are fasting.
    And I say or write postcards with Ramadan Mobarak every year.
    It is true that as Christians we need to go deeper in knowing Jesus
    That’s our responsibility, not fighting organisations that we don’t trust

  11. Debbie

    The information in the guideline seems mostly like helpful information to know if you are a teacher. I think there is so much fear mongering that everything is seen as a slippery slope. I don’t remember back in the dark ages when I was in elementary school anyone freaking out when the student that was Jehovah’s Witness went to the library during birthday celebrations.

    • shanedar

      I remember feeling confused and a little sad for JW’s not getting in on the party.

      You’re probably right about the “slippery slope.” In fact, that may be a really good construct to a take a look at. How often does the “slippery slope” actually turn out to be slippery? Thank you for the input, Debbie.

  12. Gordon Roedding

    If Christmas is celebrated in any way in a school and if accommodations exist for allowing Jewish students to celebrate holidays that are not national holidays, then finding ways to include the growing number of Muslims during their most important month of the year is only natural. However if as I suspect the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund is against any and all expressions of religion in public places, then the best country for them is France where that approach is more mainstream. A majority of Americans embrace the free practice of religion rather than the exclusion of religious expression.

    • shanedar

      Hey Gordon,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think this, “the free practice of religion rather than the exclusion of religious expression” is a brilliant goal.

  13. Tess

    I’m protestant, but work in an inner city Catholic high school, so I teach quite a few Islamic students who’s family prefer a Catholic school to their neighborhood public school. This comes with many religious restrictions that the family’s know going in.
    I wished my Muslim students a happy Ramadan anyway & sent a message to their parents wishing them well in their fasting. I honestly don’t even know if this is allowed (ask for forgiveness, not permission?), but the overwhelming positive response I received from my students & their parents was worth it.
    My students & their parents knowingly sacrifice many parts of their faith to put their kids in a better school, the least I can do is say Ramadan Mubarak.

    • shanedar

      Tess,

      You little rebel! Good for you in the efforts you’re making. I like it! And I’m thankful for the little bit of warm fuzzies your students and parents get to experience. May forgiveness, if needed, come your way abundantly!

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