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WSJ: On Law and the Hajj

I was going through my feed and found this interesting blog post on the Wall Street Journal about law and Hajj. As a Muslim, it, of course, made my spidey senses tingle. For those who may not know, Hajj is an annual pilgrimage required of every Muslim once in his/her life, if the individual is able to (barring health, financial and other concerns).

So in short, a teacher, after being employed for nine months, requested three weeks off to go on Hajj. For those who may not know, Hajj is done during a designated time (ie, you can’t go whenever you’d like). The school denied the teacher her request, she resigned and went anyway, and filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Justice Department subsequently filed a lawsuit against the school on her behalf.

Now we don’t know all the details. Did the school grant leave for other teachers and not her? Did they try to accommodate her? Did she try to work with the school? Those facts would undoubtedly affect the outcome of the case (and validity of the claim).

If it were me in her shoes, however, I don’t think I would have done that (assuming the facts only presented to us). I think the legal claim is not a strong one because the school’s policy, a reasonable one, incidentally affects her rights and is (I assume) applied equally to everyone. Further, Islamic law does not require that everyone drop what they are doing now and go. Further, it is financially burdensome on an individual, the requirement is waived.

It is my personal opinion, as well as a Muslim, and an attorney, to work with society for these kinds of requests. If possible, tell your employer before taking a job of such a plan (this would of course depend on determination to go, relationship, bargaining power, etc), try to not take an extended Hajj trip (Hajj can be completed in two weeks easily), give advance notice (maybe tell your employer that you’d like to go in two or three year’s time instead), and rack up your sick days.

The law can not accommodate every person’s religion every religious need. This is where we come to work together, recognize what is reasonable, and how we can act so as not to adversely affect any party.

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