The Muslims of America

By Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad | Go to book overview

vah's Witnesses, the courts, in most cases, have found in favor of the individual, rather than the state. In Wisconsin v. Yoder, 103 for instance, the Supreme Court held that the impact of an accommodation of Amish religious practices on secular goals would be small. 104 Similarly, in Thomas v. Review Board of Indiana Employment Security Division, 105 the Court determined that the threat presented by Jehovah's Witnesses to the advancement of the state's interest in the secular goal of reduced unemployment was not substantial enough to preclude accommodation.

However, the courts' treatment of Islam has not been uniform and provides little guidance in determining with any certainty how Islam and Muslims will fare in asserting Muslims' civil rights. In the prison context, the courts have deferred, more often than not, to the discretion of prison administrators in deciding when a state interest is compelling enough to preclude accommodation of Islamic practices. This has led to an erratic, ad hoc application of justice with regard to religious liberty inside prison walls.

Possible resolutions to foreseeable conflicts between the state and the individual Muslim remain uncertain. Conflicts may arise in a number of areas: for example, observance of the Sabbath, religious holidays, and attendance at prayer services conflict with the demands of the workplace, schools, the military, hospitals, and prisons. 106 Muslim dietary restrictions and religiously inspired choices in attire, such as veiling and prayer caps, also require a degree of religious tolerance and accommodation. With the extremely narrow conception of what constitutes the Judeo-Christian tradition of our society gaining in popular use, the Muslims of the United States stand in need of constitutional protection now perhaps more than ever before. The ability of the courts to extend such protection to Muslims has been made clear by the precedents set by other religious minorities. The courts' willingness to treat Muslims equally, however, remains unclear.


Notes
1.
Arther A. Cohen, The Myth of the Judeo-Christian Tradition ( New York: Harper & Row, 1970), p. ix. Cohen writes, "We can learn much from the history of Jewish-Christian relations, but one thing we cannot make of it is a discourse of community, fellowship, and understanding" (p. xiii). See also Martin E. Marty, "A Judeo Christian Looks at the Judeo Christian Tradition," The Christian Century, October 8, 1986, p. 858.
2.
Although President Reagan has often spoken of the Judeo-Christian tradition, his religious references are decidedly Christian. See Chapter 5 (especially pp. 7477), Paul D. Erikson, Reagan Speaks, The Making of an American Myth ( New York: New York University Press, 1985).
3.
President Reagan, in his 1983 speech to the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida, warned of the encroaching spirit of "modern-day secularism" and the designs of liberals and "secular humanists" who "proclaim that they're freeing us from superstitions of the past" in order to destroy the "tried and time-tested values upon which our civilization is based," Erikson, Reagan Speaks, p. 77.

-151-

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