Thursday, June 15, 2006

Seattle public schools helping Muslims with prayers.

Edumacation: I am no lawyer, but there has to be a whole bunch of establishments, separation of church and state and court rulings this is breaking.

On Friday afternoons, Nathan Hale High School senior Abdisiyad Adan asks his fifth-period teacher what he'll miss in class, writes down the homework for the weekend and leaves school. Other Muslim students at Nathan Hale pile into Adan's car, and they set off for the Idriss Mosque a little more than a mile away. By the time they return from their mandatory Friday prayers, the school day is nearly over. Adan's situation reflects the difficulties that the Seattle School District, and other public schools across the nation, face when dealing with Muslim prayer. Federal and state law prohibit teacher-led prayers in public schools, as well as student-led prayers at school events or religious programs. But laws protect the right of students to pray, and educators often struggle with how to accommodate students without disrupting class. In Islam, prayer five times per day is obligatory. Adherents must face in the direction of Mecca and engage in a series of ritual movements. One of the five daily prayers must occur around midday, and on Fridays, the Muslim holy day, the midday prayer is supposed to occur in a mosque. Seattle School District guidelines give school administrators the responsibility of deciding how to handle Muslim prayer. At Garfield High School, an empty classroom is provided for Muslims to pray during lunch periods, Principal Ted Howard said. Students who don't want to miss lunch can have an extra 10 minutes to pray after the lunch period provided their teachers sign off on it. On Fridays, Muslims are allowed to go to a nearby mosque. "As long as we have the space, and people are willing to step up and help us out, we're willing to accommodate most students' needs," Howard said. The district's Office of Equity and Race Relations has established a committee to examine the needs of Muslim students, and the ways the district can address them.
This hasn't made a lot of people happy as this is a slap in the face of almost every other religion among other complaints.
Focus on Muslims Some critics believe focusing just on Muslim prayer reflects a bias against Christianity. Others say the effort gives too much attention to one group. Andy MacDonald, a Ballard resident who contributes to the blog Soundpolitics.com, said the committee appears to be dealing only with Muslims because they've made their concerns heard. "If they're going to have a broad district policy, they should have a policy for prayer in general [without exceptions]," he said. Hollins said that Muslim students are unique because they have a particular time of day when they need to pray. "For myself as a Christian, while I pray every day, there's not a particular time that my supervisor needs to know [about]," Hollins said. American Civil Liberties Union of Washington spokesman Doug Honig said a series of U.S. Supreme Court cases justifies the Seattle district's efforts. Adan said that Nathan Hale teachers and administrators had been very helpful in providing a room for prayer and allowing students to miss class, but, he said, it can be a problem elsewhere. "For all Muslims, prayer is ... significant," Adan said. "When you have to choose between prayer and school, it's tough."
You can read up on the various cases about school prayer from Wikipedia. Most interesting is the Muslim in a non-Muslim country should act from Islam online.
"....Dear brother in Islam, we commend your pursuit of knowledge and your eagerness to seek what is lawful and avoid what is not. We earnestly implore Allah to bless your efforts in this honorable way. First of all, it is well known that as long as one lives in a certain country as a citizen or a legal resident, he or she certainly must abide by the laws of that country. This fact needs no proof, as by having citizenship, a residence permit or a visa, one agrees to abide by the laws of the country. While abiding by the laws of the country of residence, a Muslim must try his best to comply with the rulings of Shari`ah whenever possible and be eager not to be liable to those laws that contradict the clear-cut Islamic rulings agreed upon by all Islamic juristic schools. However, when a non-Muslim law agrees with the ruling of at least one school, then there is no harm if a Muslim abides by such a law. Answering the question you raised, the eminent Muslim scholar, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hanooti, member of the North American Fiqh Council, states: "We have to abide by the law of the place where we live. We are not committed to obey any law contradictory to Islam. You cannot live in a society without complying with its rules and laws. You will be forced to follow those laws. If you want to disobey the laws of that society, you will make yourself liable to penalties and punishments. That liability is against Islam."

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