Everyone loves vacations. They’re a getaway from reality. The paradise of the worker. The dream of the overwhelmed student. The fantasy of the professor. People jump at the chance for even a small break from their stressful lives, even though sometimes those breaks are really unjustified. At most universities – including Temple – students receive a pass from classes in the event of a religious holiday, but when does this privilege become too much?
On holidays like Passover, Eid and Navaratri, Temple students are given clearance to skip class, and sometimes assignments. I find this completely fair and understandable. However, sometimes this policy gets exploited by a lot of students, including myself.
Every year, Six Flags America holds an event called “Muslim Family Day.” The park is rented out by the Islamic Circle of North America in celebration of Eid Al-Fitr and stays open from 9 a.m. to midnight. The tickets are always much cheaper than usual, the entire park comes together to pray all five daily prayers as a congregation, Islamic merchandise is sold and food is both halal and discounted.
This year, and almost every year, the event will not happen on Eid day. On the real holiday, everyone goes to the masjid and then to an after party to eat, drink and be merry. Muslim Family Day is not technically Eid, but students still get a pass for it. Is it fair? Not really.
These permits exist for students to fulfill a religious obligation or participate in a religious ceremony. Going to Six Flags is not a ceremony. It’s not prayer. It’s not even Eid. It’s just the most Islam-related fun Muslim kids get to have all year, and that doesn’t qualify as a religious obligation.
One can argue that the event really is a religious ceremony, since it is made to celebrate a holy day. Attendees still pray. They still fulfill their religious duties. People who aren’t Muslim are welcome to attend. Does it really matter what day the event takes place? Maybe not, but this isn’t fair to other students, because while Muslims get clearance to go, everyone else doesn’t.
The unspoken truth of the matter is that almost no one who has been waiting in line for a ride is going to ditch it to go pray on time. They’re going to get on the ride, enjoy it, and then pray in a corner in shame because they’re doing it late. So even the religious part of the whole thing isn’t exactly fulfilled properly.
It also gives Muslim students an advantage over the other kids who need the break for a real religious responsibility. They go to their respective places of worship to participate in the holy event going on that day. They aren’t going to a theme park.
More often than not, professors don’t know very much about Eid, which makes getting out of class and twisting the truth extremely easy. Conversely, most of Temple’s teachers know exactly when holidays like Passover are and there’s really no way of getting away with bending the truth to have some fun.
There should be proper documentation given to prove that a student is asking for a legitimate religious pass. A note from the leader of their place of worship could suffice. Religious people aren’t allowed to lie, right? This would make the rule giving a pass for religious holidays more reasonable and fair. Students who are part of any religion would have an equal chance to take a day off for their holiday. The Muslim kids wouldn’t have that unfair advantage anymore.
But like the hypocrite most of us have the tendency to be when we want something, I will be at the park bright and early taking full advantage of my invalid religious pass. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll just go buy my ticket now.
Hend Salah can be reached at Hend.Salah@temple.edu.