Who Gives What, When?

I found two articles from The Christian Science Monitor  on Muslim-related topics to be of interest today.  Each article highlights the issue of integration – how far should a majority non-Muslim culture go in terms of accommodating the religious preferences and practices of Muslims?

The first has to do with a US company being sued by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).  The company refuses to grant Muslim employees additional break times to fulfill their duty of prayer five times daily.  These prayer times, from what I can tell, fall between specific hours of the day.  This web site claims to give the appropriate time-frames for the five prayers, but is not the easiest to decipher!  The article mentions that Muslims have flexibility, but doesn’t say how much (though the web site above gives some indication).  CAIR is suing the company for religious discrimination.  The employees attempted to negotiate with the company, asking for unpaid breaks.  The company refused this option based on work stoppage concerns.  The company clearly was willing to hire Muslim employees, but the number of these employees had risen to the point where interruptions based on prayer were becoming more impactful.  I’m impressed by the efforts both the employees and the employer undertook to try and reach a successful agreement.

The second article has to do with Muslim students in Switzerland.  Two male Muslim students refused to shake hands with a female teacher.  In Switzerland it is apparently traditional to begin and end the school day with a handshake between teachers and students.  A Muslim organization indicated that the boys were being unreasonable, as integration and respect trumped Muslim restrictions on physical contact with someone of the opposite sex outside of immediate family.  Since the boys would be expected to work someday and would need to shake hands in order to accomplish this, refusing to shake their teacher’s hand is deemed unreasonable and counterproductive.

Interesting to watch how integration is and isn’t working.  In both countries, the Muslim population is well below 5% of the total population.


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