Muslim Family Day at Amusement Park Sets Off the Crazies
by Sheila Musaji
There has been a Muslim Family Day at Six Flags Amusement Parks in many cities across the U.S. for 10 years now, since 2000. The idea was to plan a special day after Ramadan. This year some of these Family Days will be held on September 12th, and that has set off a firestorm of objections. Some even calling the event a “stab in the eye” of Americans, or “spitting in the face” of Americans.
Glenn Beck wonders why they (those Muslims) would be so insensitive as to pick a day so close to 9/11. Obviously his crack research staff needs to be replaced. That is the weekend after the end of Ramadan this year. The Islamic calendar is lunar rather than solar, so events on the Islamic calendar move forward by approximately 11 days each year in the lunar calendar. In a couple of years this event will be coming in August rather than September. In 2009 the events were planned around September 21, in 2008 around October 1, in 2007 around October 14 - you get the idea.
Contrary to all of the Islamophobic accusations, the date is simply when the three day Eid ul Fitr celebration (the celebration at the end of Ramadan) will fall this year. If you look on the front page of TAM you will see as the first item in the Editors Column this notice The Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) and the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) have used a Shar’ia compliant method to determine the 2010 Ramadan and Eid calendars. On behalf of FCNA and ECFR, ISNA announces the first day of Ramadan to begin on Wednesday August 11, 2010 and Eid ul-Fitr will be Friday September 10, 2010.
Different communities were able to make arrangements to have this on different days. Here is the Muslim Family Day 2010 schedule:
Jackson, NJ (September 10), Dallas, TX (September 12), Chicago, IL (September 12), Washington, DC (September 12), Springfield, MA (September 18), Los Angeles, CA (September 18), San Francisco, CA (September 18), Atlanta, GA (October 2).
Anyone who works for a large corporation or business knows that often they make arrangements for a special day for their employees, or for their convention attendees at places like Six Flags or even Disneyland or Disneyworld. For a certain time period the park is closed except for people with that particular group. I am certain this wouldn’t be done unless the parks were making money on this. I have personally attended a number of these private events hosted by the corporation for which my husband works.
From the ICNA Muslim Family Day site (the organizers of this event) we learn “Over the years, Muslim Family Day has become a staple in the American Muslim community. The event has attracted over 100,000 in the past two years alone. Muslim Family Day was first held in 2000 at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ. The tragic events of September 11th, which resulted in the loss of thousands of innocent lives, also affected this event directly. Tariq Amanullah, the chief organizer of Muslim Family Day, worked on the 96th floor of World Trade Center, Tower 2, and was a victim of the attacks. Through its various endeavors, ICNA honors his memory of building bridges between communities.” You will also discover that ICNA’s president is Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Price for his work pioneering microlending through the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.
The Tea Party Patriots website (the same folks that brought you the “bring your dogs” protest of the Temecula mosque) has a page which posts the rantings of all sorts of bigots claiming that this is a “symbolic victory”, “this is all about conquest”, “Islam is not a religion”, “STOP THE SILENCE. STOP THE NONSENCE. STOP THE MUSLIM DAY - THEY ARE NOT AMERICANS. THEY DO NOT ABIDE BY OUR CONSTITUTION - THEY ARE NOT ONE OF US - YOU ARE EITHER WITH US OR AGAINST US - MAKE YOUR DECISION.”, ” Islam tells people it is OK to be two-faced liars”, ” they cannot ever respect our constitution because it’s in direct violation with Sharia and how they must abide by a set of laws called dualism, compelling them to lie to others”, “there is no such thing of (sic) a ‘mild’ muslim”.
And one bigot asks “Is Six Flags having a Catholic Day? Or a Protestant Day? Or a Jewish Day? Or a Black Liberation Theology Day? Or a Tea Party Patriots Day? No? Then why the special treatment for Muslims? Why? Did someone pay Six Flags an awful lot? Blood money?” Six Flags is not having a Muslim Family Day either. A Muslim organization paid to hold the event there. If Catholics, or Buddhists, or anyone else wants to arrange for such an event for their community they are welcome to do so, and of course they will have to pay for it just like the Muslims. If you check out Six Flags website you’ll see that they advertize that they cater to all sorts of groups including religious groups. They advertize that “We’ll work with you to create the perfect program of events and activities. For example, we can organize your day around one of our amazing Gospel or Contemporary Christian concerts.” And “Our experienced and professional catering and planning teams will work with you on every detail of your event. We cater to all types of dietary needs and will help you create a menu that’s right for your group.”
In some people’s eyes American Muslims seem to be guilty until proven innocent. As I said in another article about Tea Party racism “American Muslims are a part of “we the people”. We are Americans. We are not going anywhere. And, I believe that it is well past time that other Americans begin standing up against this demonization of Islam and Muslims. It would be nice to know that this sort of bigotry is not shared by most of our fellow Americans.”
Media Matters has pubished Fox and Friends Attack Muslim Family Day:
On what is rapidly becoming a regular feature, Fox & Friends this morning continued their incessant attack on Islam. Co-host Alisyn Camerota this morning hosted anti-Islam blogger and founder of the ironically named Americans Against Hate organization Joe Kaufman to attack Muslim Family Day at Six Flags Great Adventure. Camerota called it “insensitive” that they would host the event on September 12, “just hours after the anniversary of the September 11th attacks,” and added “but what’s even more controversial are the allegations that the Muslim group organizing the event could have been involved in financing the September 11 terror attacks.” Kaufman went further, employing what is becoming a familiar phrase among anti-Muslim bloggers: “The fact that they’re having it on September 12th, I believe they are actually spitting in the face of Americans.”
So what evidence did Kaufman give to back up Camerota’s claim that the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), who is sponsoring this event, “could have been involved in financing the September 11 terror attacks?” His first piece of evidence is a message from former ICNA President Dr. Muhammad Yunus making “a request calling on supporters to give ‘material support to groups associated with al-Qaida and the Taliban.” Here is what Yunus actually said, in an image hosted on Kaufman’s website: “Remember fellow Chechnyan Muslims in Eid Celebrations. President ICNA Dr. Muhammad Yunus has requested all Muslims around the world to include Chechnyan Muslims in their special Eid-ul-Fitr prayers. We must show our spiritual and material support for our brothers and sisters being oppressed by Russian forces.” For Kaufman, this justifies making the claim that “they may be themselves involved in financing 9/11.”
In case the name Muhammad Yunus sounds familiar, by the way, that would be Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus, developer of the microcredit and microfinance concepts.
Kaufman went on to try to associate ICNA with Hamas through more tenuous ties. According to his website, in 2006 ICNA was listed as a donor to the Al-Khidmat Foundation, a Pakistani charitable organization that, according to their website, “is dedicated to the services of humanity all parts of the world without any discrimination of creed, religion and political associaltion [sic].” They provide funding for clean water projects, diagnostic centers, orphan homes, and other community-based programs. According to Kaufman, while ICNA was one of their donors, the Al-Khidmat Foundation made a one-time donation to Hamas. Kaufman of course has no evidence that ICNA was involved in the gift, or that their money was part of the gift, or that they had anything to do whatsoever with the gift. Kaufman has been pushing this connection for years, and even the Anti-Defamation League isn’t buying it. An October 5, 2007 Dallas Daily News article reported on Kaufman’s allegations. At the time, he was protesting a different Muslim Family Day at Six Flags Over Texas. They reported (accessed via Nexis):
Mohammad Barney, president of the Dallas chapter of ICNA, said the accusations are troubling and untrue.
According to its Web site, ICNA supports Islamic culture and education while promoting justice and understanding.
“It’s disturbing that they are writing false statements like that,” said Mr. Barney. “People have the right to say whatever they want, but that doesn’t make it true.”
The Anti-Defamation League - a pro-Jewish group - seems to agree. ICNA is not listed as a threat on its Web site.
“We don’t involve ourselves in that kind of activity,” said Mark Briskman, regional director of the league, who said his group would not participate in the protest. “He made a lot of claims ... without clear documentation of those claims. His statements are problematic.”
So other than making what appear to be baseless accusations about an organization sponsoring a family outing, why would Fox & Friends bring Kaufman on to attack Muslim Family Day? Well, what he lacks in expertise or insight, he makes up for in dedication. What Kaufman failed to mention is that, while Muslims may be “spitting in the faces of Americans” for holding the event on September 12, he attacked the event in 2007, when it was being held on October 14. Kaufman and Fox also ignored that the reason why the event is being held on September 12 this year—the same reason it was held on October 14 in 2007—is that it falls on the first weekend after Ramadan ends.
In a FrontPage article titled “Fanatic Muslim Family Day” Kaufman wrote of the October 2007 event:
ICNA’s Muslim Family Day that will occur on October 14, 2007 is nothing but a charade, created to spread hatred, but veiled in a way to make the sponsoring organization look harmless. Six Flags will play host to this dangerous farce. If events, such as these, are allowed to continue, more and more Americans could become desensitized to those groups - fifth columns within our borders that wish to do us harm. It is up to those concerned to speak out against these travesties that threaten our way of life.
He may have been on to something. Looking back at previous events, I was able to find evidence of ICNA members spreading hatred. Witness the horror:
It seems that the idea of Muslims doing exactly what other groups do and having family days at public venues also upsets the crazies in Britain. Bob Pitt at Islamophobia Watch notes Chessington World of Adventures Muslim fun day sparks complaints from far-right groups
Chessington World of Adventures was the target of complaints from far-right groups angry about a fun day booked for the Muslim Eid festival booked ahead for November 9, 2013.
A far-right blog, which claims to be engaged in “expossing [sic] the evil of Islam”, urged readers to complain to the park. A link to the website was shared on Twitter by an account claiming to represent the Nottingham branch of the British National Party.
A park spokeswoman said the park is closed from November 4 until December 7. She said: “This is one of many private hire events held in our ‘close season’ at the park and we do not discriminate against any religions or faiths. The event is open to all faiths.”
Sheila Musaji is the founding editor of The American Muslim (TAM), published since 1989. Sheila received the Council on American-Islamic Relations 2007 Islamic Community Service Award for Journalism, and the Loonwatch Anti-Loons of 2011: Profiles in Courage Award for her work in fighting Islamophobia. Sheila was selected for inclusion in the 2012 edition of The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims published since 2009 by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, Jordan. Biography You can follow her on twitter @sheilamusaji ( https://twitter.com/SheilaMusaji )
Originally published 7/31/2010