Roller Coasters, Hijabs and Terrorists

Via Amygdala comes this New York Times story about the Muslim Youth Day organized by ICNA-NJ which included a day at the Six Flags here.

Accompanied by a half-dozen classmates, Ms. Khan was among the estimated 15,000 Muslims who came out for Muslim Youth Day on Friday, when the Great Adventure theme park was set aside for Muslims from as far away as Massachusetts and North Carolina.

But where there are Muslims, there will always be controversy, usually of two kinds. First come the bigots and nut cases:

Yet Muslim Youth Day, intended as a day of relaxation and morale boosting, has not been a thoroughly smooth ride. The last week has been fraught with threats and racial epithets lobbed at the Islamic Circle of North America, the group that rented the park for the event, and the corporate offices of Six Flags Great Adventure.

Kristin Siebeneicher, Six Flags’s spokeswoman, said she spent the week in interviews with radio performers from New Jersey, California, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma who wanted to know why the park was turning its rides over to Muslims and shutting everyone else out for the day.

“The concerns are that they believe the event is exclusionary,” Ms. Siebeneicher said. “I don’t think most people understood it was a day we’re closed anyway, and we were not taking something away from the public to give to a private group.”

In the spring and fall, Six Flags is open only on weekends, and the park is often rented out to groups on weekdays, Ms. Siebeneicher said. She added that the National Conference of Synagogue Youth regularly rented the park for a day, as well as the Catholic Youth Rally and an organization of home-schooled children.

[…] Ms. Siebeneicher said that the most disturbing thing about the questions she fielded about the event was the implication that Six Flags was playing host to a terrorist-friendly organization.

She said one talk show host asked if the company would rent the park to Nazis. The park’s guest services phone lines and the company’s corporate offices in Oklahoma were flooded by callers asking Six Flags to reverse its decision and threatening to boycott or sue the park.

For some people, something that has been a normal practice for a long time suddenly becomes controversial and a no-no once Muslims are involved. It was a similar case with the non-photo driving license, a practice that was longstanding and had benefited conservative Christians became anathema once conservative Muslim women wanted to benefit from it.

Nevertheless, Six Flags did run an additional F.B.I. check on the sponsoring group, despite the fact that they had rented the park to the group twice before.

In fact, the last time Muslim Youth Day took place here was just three days before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

But hey, September 11 changed everything, didn’t it?

Then there was the usual Muslim controversy.

Earlier this week, the words “for Muslims only” were removed from the sponsor’s Internet advertisement for the event. Adem Carroll, a relief coordinator and spokesman for Islamic Circle of North America, said the event was never intended to exclude others, particularly because many of its members are in mixed families, with Muslims and non-Muslims. The intent instead was to provide a protected environment for those seeking to relax.

Via Muslim Wakeup, you can look at their old flyer which includes:

Entire park all day for Muslims only

in capitals on the top right. As if that was not enough, they reiterate the sentiment in the body of the flyer:

Exclusive day for Muslim [sic] only

Was that really necessary? Wasn’t the name of the event “Muslim Youth Day” or the name of the organizer “Islamic Circle of North America” enough as a hint that this was a mainly Muslim event?

When Muslims get together, a requirement of or at least a discussion of hijab (the head covering for Muslim women) can’t be far behind. ICNA had these dress guidelines for the participants at Muslim Youth Day.

Modest dress code must be observed. Clothing should be loose, non-provocative and cover neck to ankle for all aged 10 and older. No swimming costumes are allowed.

Good thing I didn’t go because I was definitely going to wear my swimming trunks. [/sarcasm]

It is obvious to some Muslims that this standard of modesty must be implemented for women, but can be ignored for men.

While most of the women at the event complied with some version of the dress code, or hijab, fully covering their bodies and heads, standards were somewhat loosened for the men, many of whom were admitted in shorts and T-shirts.

Couldn’t the New York Times reporter been a little more precise? I would like to know if any women or girls were told to cover up or denied entry. Same for men and boys. May be I can try to find out as I have a couple of friends among the organizers.

One reason I could have gone to the event was for the Allah Made Me Funny Comedy Tour which had an act there. But Michelle is too young and we didn’t have a babysitter.

Author: Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer

18 thoughts on “Roller Coasters, Hijabs and Terrorists”

  1. What do these muslim guys want to do? Do they want to make an Islamic United States of America? or maybe at least an Islamic state, as the 51st one?
    They may not comply with the American mainstream culture as an individual, but when they keep their own special practices as a group, what really is their intention? If they are so much obsessed about their Islamic community, why don’t they go back to their father land, where Allah has sent their prophet?

  2. Everything but the (Bond) girl

    Miscellaneous comments on things I’ve been getting caught up with…Brian Ulrich noted last Monday the intolerable situation of the Iranian Baha’is. It reminded me that, according to mullahcracy enthusiast Hamid Algar, what first brought Ayatollah Khom…

  3. zack has hit on something i’ve noted.

    1) yes, there is bigotry toward all things “muslim” by a subset of non-muslims.

    2) the muslims who tend to be targets of this bigotry though often are “conservatives” who characterize their own practice as normative for islam. for example, i went to bangladesh this spring and about 85% of women did not cover their hair. this in a nation that is 85% muslim. so, i get really irritated when hijab wearers say that “my religion [islam] demands i wear this,” when it is their interpretation of islam, or their particular sect of islam, because non-muslims don’t know these details and start assuming all sorts of things about “what a muslim is.”

    by analogy, when a jehovah’s witness says, “it’s against my religion to give blood,” americans know that the religion is a sect of christianity, not christianity as a whole. they don’t make this distinction in the case of muslims because they don’t know enough.

  4. The questions asked from Ms. Siebeneicher are not worrysome keeping in view the state of American behaviour for the last 3 years. But, if an American lady is given the same treatment at an Indian airport as generally metted out to people of sub-continent Indo-Pakistan at American airports, White House is hit by quack.
    So far dress code of Muslims is concerned, nobody has ever raised a finger towards the dress worn by the nuns, but a similar dress worn by a Mulim lady puts the whole world into vibrators.
    What a Hypocrisy.

  5. Bigotry and religous intolerance should not be part of the American experience. Sadly, the reported events demonstrate that a portion of the population failed to learn the lessons of the Civil War, Japanese internment and Civil Rights Movement. As a patriot and supporter of the ideals posited in the constitution, such reports always weigh upon my heart and trouble my mind.

    Ajmal:

    While a double standard likely exists in these troubled times, you may wish to reconsider your dress code comparison. Nuns, at least in the Roman Catholic version of Christianity, belong to religous orders. They are part of the clerical establishment. All nuns take vows of chastity, and some take other vows (poverty, etc.). Their garments signify a certain separation from the rest of society and a dedication to their vows and particular line of social and religious service.

    Head coverings and other concealing garments are worn as a result of the chastity vow. Woman choose to become nuns, and they join with full awareness of the accompanying restrictions. In fact, individuals joining religious orders must undergo a period of training and education. This period serves to impress upon them the seriousness and depth of their commitments, among other things. During this period, they are encouraged to leave if they find that they harbor doubts about entering the sisterhood.

    While I cannot speak with certainty, I suspect that a nun’s experience differs markedly from that of an average woman in an Islamic society.

  6. Captain Arrrgh do you mean to say that different dress symbolises difference from the rest.
    ‘Head coverings and other concealing garments are worn as a result of the chastity vow. Woman choose to become nuns, and they join with full awareness of the accompanying restrictions.’
    by the above statement does that imply that muslim women who wear head scarf are made to do so without their consent and awareness.
    And i dont understand one thing if the christian ideology supports head scarfs atleast in a certain section of society and thinks that this symbolises certain things why cant muslim women be allowed to wear head scrves thinking that this symbolises certain beliefs.
    and also for what islam is a complete conduct of life. in this religion there is nothing apart from the religion. your life is what your religion is. unlike christianity where a demonstrable difference exists in the religion and the general society.
    In islam there is no compulsion but once you adopt this code of conduct there are rules one has to live by. i mean afterall thats what rligion is for-to give you discipline in life and thus in society.

  7. Sorry for my last comment went wayward from the actual post. i dont know what to say. i am not at all gainst such gatherings. just like youth of every other religion m,uslim youth have a full right to have such gatherings where they can generate useful and interesting interactions.
    Americans these days are too frightened. this maybe the result of the present govt. over drive. but if a christian youth gathering takes place they will surely include in it some of their rituals ands rules to be followed by the participants. if organizers of a muslim youth gatherings wanted their own rules according to their religion whats the harm in doing so.
    as for the petty differnces they will exist and have existed in all religions. you can never do away with them can you.

  8. Captain Arrrgh: is Islam a new race? If you want to make such comparisons, McCarthyism may be a better choice. By the way, when (the fundamentalist) muslims want to single their comunity out, why you are regretful that (a portion of) people make it easier for them?

  9. kianoush: why don’t they go back to their father land

    Isn’t that a bit over the top in this case?

    is Islam a new race?

    I don’t know how you got that idea from Captain Arrrgh’s comment.

    razib: I have noticed that there is a sharp divide between conservative and liberal Muslims in the US. Most Muslim organizations and events represent the conservatives. The liberals, who form a majority I think, are pretty well assimilated.

    Moiz: You are reading too much into Captain Arrrgh’s comment.

    I don’t have a problem with such gatherings in principle except the two objections I listed in my post. One is not to make such events exclusive. It would still have been a Muslim event with mainly Muslim attendees if they hadn’t put those statements on their flyer. The dress code requirement does, in a way, exclude a majority of US Muslims, like us, and thus make it an even more “exclusive” event.

  10. What happened to Japanese during WW2 or Blacks was due to their appearance and ethnicity and race, not their ideology. It is completely unfair to punish and restrain someone due to his/her ethnicity; but when it comes to the ideology, it is different, because the person has chosen that ideology, and he is responsible for the consequences.
    Don’t you think it is ridicule when in the flyer the kids with that outfit (remember they are still kid and they should have the right to live like other kids and later choose their ideology of life wisely) are saying “Allah is great, we are gonna have fun and…”. They have singled out the kids from the society, and they have put “Allah’o akbar” motto in their mouth to only make them separated from the reset of the kids, and to show that this roller coaster ride is for a separated class of people (and kids). Instead of that much emphasis on being separated, they can go to Saudi and live like other people and say Allah’o akbar from dawn to dusk before whatever they want to

  11. “Don’t you think it is ridicule when in the flyer the kids with that outfit (remember they are still kid and they should have the right to live like other kids and later choose their ideology of life wisely) are saying “Allah is great, we are gonna have fun and…”. They have singled out the kids from the society, and they have put “Allah’o akbar” motto in their mouth to only make them separated from the reset of the kids, and to show that this roller coaster ride is for a separated class of people (and kids). Instead of that much emphasis on being separated, they can go to Saudi and live like other people and say Allah’o akbar from dawn to dusk before whatever they want to..”

    I think they should not have released that flyer into the “mainstream”….its a cute flyer but certainly does not belong outside of the mosque. I think you have a valid point of seperating MUSLIM children from regular children. Which is why I am sort of against the idea of all “islamic” school…at least in Christian schools…anyone can attend. How many Christians do you see in Islamic schools? I think sometimes we get 2 overzealous and 4get about the rest of the society in which we reside. We need to openly invite the community around us.

    Peace.
    -Ali

  12. Zack: well i would say that every thing has its purpose. we need to define th epurpose of this meeting before we can object. there are meetings that are meant to improve understanding between people of different religions. they cant and should not be exclusive. obviously if you only let the muslims attend such meetings then the purpose will not be served. then there are meetings which are meant to improve understanding amongst people of similar religions but different backgrounds. maybe youth meeting ws meant to be this way.
    so your objection that it should not have been made exclusive doesnt seem to a valid one.
    although i am not aware of the motives and objectives of the meeting in discussion coz i sit acroos the globe but i can make a guess. and if that is righ then i dont htik there is really any need to be calling in every tom dick and harry in this case.

  13. kianoush: While ideology is certainly different that something innate, like the color of one’s skin, in discrimination issues, I don’t think the situation is as simple as you describe.

    Moiz: I am not saying that the youth day should have been interfaith. But their emphasis (on ICNA’s website and twice on the flyer) was quite misplaced. It’s not like thousands of atheists, Christians or Hindus would have attended “Muslim Youth Day” if ICNA hadn’t put the “Muslims only” statement everywhere. After all, I don’t go uninvited to the Six Flags event organized by Catholic Youth Rally.

    Also, what to do with families in which there are members of different religions? Were they allowed to participate? ICNA spokesman says yes in the news article. So what really was the purpose of the explicit exclusion?

  14. Against beekeeping

    Recently I was flipping around and saw Bill Maher refer to Arabs keeping “half their population dressed like beekeepers.” I found that hilarious. As Stanely Kurtz has noted Westerners should be really cautious about fiddling with Muslim modes of dress….

  15. Salaam all,
    I am a muslim as you may conclude, and I disagree with most of you posting. Islam is a religion that is in all places, just as Christianity is. Most people in my community wear Hijab, but few of them don’t. They will be punished severely from Allah (SWT). We (muslims) have our own holidays just like Chrisains have Chrismas and Easter. Christains have many holidays, and we muslims have few. So don’t be racist about it…that’s al I have to say…
    Wasalaam

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