In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 24, 2011 / 18 Adar II, 5771

Anti-Muslim Backlash? Justice Says 3-Week Vacation for Hadj is a Constitutional Right

By Jonathan Tobin

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The overheated response to Rep. Peter King's hearings on the threat from Islamist extremism has now officially gone over the top. In an astonishing decision, the Justice Department has decided to argue that a Muslim school teacher had the right to demand a 3-week vacation in the middle of a school year in order to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. It's difficult to figure the reasoning behind the federal government's move to treat an individual's decision to make the hadj a constitutional right but, as an article in the Washington Post points out, this may have more to do with the Obama administration's campaign to reach out to Muslims than it does with the law.

The facts of the case as presented make Attorney General Eric Holder's decision hard to understand. The teacher, a woman named Safoorah Kahn, who taught math at a middle school in Berkley, Illinois, had only been on the job for nine months when she presented her supervisors with a demand for three weeks off in order to go to Mecca. The right to take this kind of leave during the time the school was in session was not part of her employment agreement or the teachers-union contract. While making the pilgrimage is a requirement of the Muslim faith, it is one that can be fulfilled by going once during one's lifetime. Had Ms. Kahn been willing to wait eight years until the time for the annual hadj set by the Muslim religious calendar fell during school vacation there would have been no problem. But she was not willing to wait. She demanded the time off immediately and when the school refused her unprecedented request, she went anyway and was, not surprisingly, dismissed.


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While the law requires employers to make reasonable accommodation for their employees' religious observances, there was nothing reasonable about Kahn's demand. This is not a case of an employee being denied the right to take off from work on a religious holiday, or the Sabbath, or of wanting to wear religiously required distinctive clothing or headgear. The refusal to give a new employee this sort of lengthy leave of absence was not a matter of religious discrimination because what she was asking was not the right to observe her faith but the satisfaction of a whim that would have put her school and her students at a disadvantage.

Nevertheless, Kahn lodged a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and, last year, the commission found cause for discrimination and referred the case to the Justice Department. Justice lawyers filed a suit on behalf of Kahn in federal court in December.

But as Hans von Spakovsky, a Justice Department civil rights official in the Bush administration, told the Post, "No jury anywhere would think that a teacher leaving for three weeks during a crucial time at the end of a semester is reasonable. This is a political lawsuit to placate Muslims."

Indeed, the effort to re-interpret the law in this manner seems to be about the administration sending a message that Muslims will be defended by the government, even when, as in this case, they are not being subjected to discrimination.

Since the 9/11 attacks, American Muslim groups have been desperate to sell the country on the idea that they are being persecuted even though there is no evidence that they were subjected to a backlash. Part of this campaign has been an effort to suppress government investigations into Muslim involvement in terror cases. But, as was the case with plans to build an Islamic center and mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero in Manhattan, what seems to be going on is not so much an effort to fight bias as to assert the Muslim community's political power.

Far from being another milestone in the battle against religious discrimination, the Kahn case is a signal that the administration is willing to do battle on behalf of American Muslims, even when there is no compelling legal rationale for them to do so.

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Jonathan Tobin Archives

JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of Commentary magazine, in whose blog "Contentions" this first appeared.

© 2011, Jonathan Tobin