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.
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.