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9/11+15: CAIR’s Memorial Program for 15th Commemoration of Sept. 11, 2001

On a cloudless late summer day in September of 2001, the fate of the Muslim American community was unalterably changed when hijacked airlines slammed into the two World Trade Center Towers in New York. The attacks that morning led directly to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, the draconian “War on Terror,” the rise of ISIS, and the eruption of Islamophobia across America.

CAIR believes that the Muslim community should not allow this narrative to be told only by the voices of the Islamophobic network. Consequently, CAIR-Philadelphia, together with the American Friends Service Committee, Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, and the Delaware Council on Global and Muslim Affairs, invites you to attend a very special 9/11 memorial program of remembrance and reconciliation.

Professor Muqtedar Khan, Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Delaware; and President of Delaware Council on Global and Muslim Affairs, will speak on “A Muslim Perspective on 9/11”.

Prof. Khan’s presentation will be followed by a screening of In Our Son’s Name, an award-winning documentary by Gayla Jamison. The powerful film tells the moving story of a New York couple, Phyllis and Orlando Rodríguez, whose son dies along with thousands of others at the WTC on 9/11, and who then find the power to transform their grief into a call for reconciliation, justice, and peace when they help create the organization Sept. 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.

This is a program you do not want to miss.

For further information, go to http://pa.cair.com/9-11-plus-15/ or contact CAIR at 267.515.6711, jbender@cair.com.

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American Muslims in the Workplace

by Ryan Houldin
CAIR-Philadelphia Staff Attorney

All American Muslims in the workforce should be aware that they have the right to request a religious accommodation at their work place. However, that right is far from absolute. Employers are required to engage in a good faith effort to accommodate your request, but that does not mean that they must grant your request.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that an employer must accommodate an employee’s sincerely held religious belief unless such an accommodation would place an undue hardship on the employer. The definition of “undue hardship” is the crux of most religious accommodation lawsuits, and there is no precise meaning. Generally, if accommodating a religious request will negatively affect a company’s profit, courts will not require an employer to grant the accommodation. Pennsylvania courts have consistently ruled in favor of the employer if granting a religious accommodation would require altering work schedules, paying overtime to cover shifts, or otherwise place an economic burden on the company. However, there are some accommodation requests in which it is difficult for an employer to argue that granting the request would negatively impact the company’s bottom line, such as wearing a hijab at work or using lunch breaks to pray. Each case is fact specific and will depend on the circumstances of the company, the responsibilities of the employee, and the nature of the accommodation.

If the religious accommodation sought is time specific, i.e. Hajj, Eid, Ramadan, the best practice is to make the request as early as possible. By giving the company advanced notice it could weaken the company’s argument that granting the accommodation would have caused a hardship. For example, we received a call from an employee who requested off for Eid less than a week before the holiday. By that time, too many people had requested off that day and the employee’s request was denied. On Eid the employee called out from work, citing the religious holiday, which resulted in a suspension. The employer was within its right to suspend the employee for failure to follow their attendance policy. If the employee sued the company for failure to grant a religious accommodation, it is highly likely that a court would side with the employer because accommodating the employee’s request on such short notice would have required altering other workers’ shifts or paying overtime to cover the shift. Had the employee given more advanced notice it is likely that the company would have granted the request.

Determining when an employer is required to grant a religious accommodation request is difficult. If you were denied a religious accommodation, or you would like to make such a request, contact CAIR-Philadelphia to obtain a more in depth analysis of the law.

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SCAM ALERT: Beware of spoof calls from “NYPD” requesting information

Our office has been informed of a scam targeting Muslims with calls from people falsely claiming to be New York Police Department officials attempting to obtain sensitive information from community members. The fake “officials” have asked personal questions regarding birthplace and citizenship status and also made threats that the community member’s immigration status may be in danger.

The NYPD has confirmed to CAIR-Philadelphia that their phone number has been “spoofed” to contact individuals unlawfully.

ACTION REQUESTED

If you receive a phone call with the ID “NYPD” or from anyone claiming to be a police/government official and asking questions about your immigration status, please:

  • Do not give any information to the caller or send any money. If they leave a message, do not return their call.
  • Ask the person for their contact information, and tell him or her your lawyer will be in contact.
  • Tell CAIR-Philadelphia about the incident by calling 267-515-6712.
  • Share this message with your contacts.
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Recent Legal Victories

Bensalem Masjid Case

As many of you already know, CAIR-Philadelphia has filed a lawsuit against Bensalem Township for prohibiting the construction of a masjid. On July 21, 2016, the Department of Justice (DOJ) also filed suit against Bensalem Township, echoing our claims of discrimination and injustice. Only under extraordinary circumstances does the DOJ file lawsuits against Municipalities. The mere fact of their involvement speaks volumes about the egregiousness of Bensalem’s conduct against the Bensalem Masjid and their broader policies regarding places of worship. We are currently awaiting a judge’s decision as to whether our case will be joined with the DOJ.

We applaud the DOJ’s commitment to protect the religious rights of Muslims. It is a welcome relief to see the United States government work with its Muslim population to ensure equal rights.

Philadelphia Public Pool Case

It was brought to our attention that a Muslim mother was facing harassment and discrimination when accompanying her children to various Philadelphia public pools. The mother wore her traditional Islamic attire to the pool, as she had no intention of entering the pool, and her children were wearing Islamic bathing suits made from traditional swimwear material. The mother was prohibited from entering several Philadelphia pools in her Islamic attire, and staff would harass and interrogate her children concerning the appropriateness of their bathing suits.

CAIR-Philadelphia teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA), to inform the city that this conduct violates state and federal law, and demanded a change in policy. We are happy to report that the city agreed to implement a policy that conforms to state and federal religious freedom laws.

To the city’s credit, they were apologetic and cooperative in adopting a new policy. It is now the policy of Philadelphia pools to permit a parent who is accompanying their children to the pool to wear street attire on the pool deck.

Megabus Case

Last month a group of Muslim honors students were rewarded with a trip to New York City. While en route to New York City, a Megabus driver continually accused the children of being too loud and boisterous, despite the fact that none of the children were making any noise. These accusations were so blatantly false that several passengers, unaffiliated with the students, assured the driver that the children were not being disruptive. The driver went so far as to attempt to photograph several of the children. One chaperone called the police, who met them upon arrival at New York City.

CAIR-Philadelphia wrote a letter to Megabus informing management of the driver’s conduct and highlighted Megabus’ own non-discrimination policy. (Because the children were not denied service, as they were taken to New York City, there is no legal cause of action.)

Megabus investigated the incident and reprimanded the driver accordingly. In addition, they agreed to reimburse the group the price of their tickets. Read Megabus’ response letter (PDF).

These legal victories are further evidence of CAIR’s invaluable service to the Muslim community of the Greater Delaware Valley.

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Report from Islamophobia Town Hall and Press Conference

This past Sunday evening, CAIR-Philadelphia, American Friends Service Committee, and Jewish Voice for Peace hosted a town hall meeting on “Countering Islamophobia” at the Friends Center in Philadelphia. In attendance were more than 200 community members, local leaders, and Democratic delegates from around the country.

Speakers at the event included Jacob Bender (CAIR-Philadelphia Executive Director); Keith Harvey (Regional Director, AFSC); State Representative Jason Dawkins; Nihad Awad (Executive Director, CAIR National); US Representative Keith Ellison; Linda Sarsour (Executive Director, Arab American Association of New York); Donna Nevel (Network Against Islamophobia, Jewish Voice for Peace); Raed Jarrar (Government Relations Manager, AFSC); and The Rev. Dr. David D. Grafton (Associate Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia).

A musical interlude was provided by Al-Bustan Music Director Hanna Khoury.

View recorded video on Facebook | Photos on Flickr

On Monday morning, CAIR-Philadelphia held a press conference to follow up on the issues raised at the town hall meeting in relation to the ongoing Democratic National Convention and to urge the Convention to adopt a platform that focuses on civil rights, refugees, policing reforms, economic equality, and the climate crisis.

Speakers included Jacob Bender, Nihad Awad, Nick Taliaferro (900AM-WURD radio host, pastor and longtime public servant), Oussama Jammal (US Council of Muslim Organizations), Nancy Fuchs Kreimer (Reconstructionist Rabbinical College), Reverend David Tatgenhorst (St. Luke United Methodist Church), Rabbi Shawn Zevit (Mishkan Shalom), Jameelah Malik (Maryland activist), and Ijaz Chaudhry, Esq. (representing the Bensalem-area Muslim community).

View recorded video on Facebook

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