With the Islamic holy month having come and gone, Islamist Watch very briefly reviews and analyzes four illustrative cases of Western institutions attempting to accommodate Muslims' needs during Ramadan 2010. As always, the acceptability of concessions depends on the public-private divide and whether they infringe on the rights of others or grant Muslims special privileges withheld from everyone else:
Muslim-heavy Fordson High School in Dearborn, Michigan, scheduled football practices for the middle of the night, 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., so team members participating in the daytime fast could drink while training. Comment: This is a public school and the arrangement "discourages non-Muslims from playing on the team," as Robert Spencer aptly argues. And just imagine living near an illuminated field covered with teenagers during the wee hours. Moreover, is midnight practice required to maintain player health? No. Sessions beginning shortly after sunrise, for example, would allow the fasters to be well fed and hydrated. Also note that there are plenty of Muslim high school players across the country who practiced in daylight and survived the experience. In sum, this accommodation is excessive, disruptive to others, and unnecessary.
German television channel RTL2 continuously displayed an onscreen notice indicating the start and end times of the daily Ramadan fast. Comment: The station is privately owned and thus can do as it wishes within legal bounds. Further, nobody's rights are violated here. But one is left to ponder: will RTL2 follow up on its interfaith outreach with graphics reminding German Catholics not to eat meat on Fridays during Lent?
The municipal government of Helsingborg, Sweden, spent 30,000 kronor (around $4,000) to subsidize an Islamic student group disseminating information about Ramadan to the public. Comment: The head of the committee that "wants to contribute to better knowledge and understanding of different ethnic, cultural, and religious customs and traditions" insists that he would consider similar funding requests from other faith groups. If true, at least it would mean that religions are treated equally in Helsingborg. Whether the municipality should be paying for any organizations to spread religious messages is a separate matter.
A public library in Espoo, Finland, created an isolated prayer space for Muslim use, with the library's regional director describing it as a "temporary arrangement for the period of Ramadan. There is not going to be a permanent place of prayer for them here." Comment: His statement indicates that the area was set aside specifically for Muslims and will be removed after Ramadan. Hence, this goes a bit beyond the previous case in that we have a taxpayer-supported entity offering privileges to Muslims that apparently are unavailable to non-Muslims. More problematic.
And with that, inevitable controversies over accommodating Muslims during Ramadan are finished for another year. Up next: inevitable controversies over accommodating Muslims during the Eids.