Would you be okay with a mosque in your community? News Roundup

This week in the news: Is religion going extinct in some countries? Would you be okay with a mosque being built in your neighborhood? Does denial of time off to perform the hajj equal religious discrimination? And Senator Dick Durbin plans his own hearings on Muslims – on protecting their civil rights. 

Religion Endangered?
A new study based on the census data of nine countries – Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland – claims that, given current trending, religion will die out in those nations.
 
Presented at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, Texas, the study used nonlinear dynamics to come to its conclusions, analyzing trends in religious adherence and looking at the relative utility of religion.
 
While one of the study participants noted that there are some shortcomings to the mathematics, he still termed the finding a “suggestive result.”
 
Read more at the BBC, or view the full study online.
 
The Mosque in Your Neighborhood
Mosque building projects across the country have faced protest in recent years, from Temecula, California to Murfreesboro, Tennessee to Bridgewater, New Jersey to lower Manhattan. According to the ACLU, anti-mosque activity (ranging from lawsuits to vandalism) has occurred in 21 states over the past five years.
 
Now, a survey finds that, in fact, most Americans would be “okay” with a mosque in their community.
“The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday found that 69% of Americans would be "OK" with a mosque in their area while 28% would not.
 
But there are big differences depending on where you live. Half of rural Southerners say they disapprove of a mosque in their neighborhood, while 42% say they would be "OK" with it.
 
That rises to roughly three-quarters among those who live in cities and suburbs.” (CNN)
 
Pilgrimage Time
Middle school teacher Safoorah Khan had been teaching math in a Chicago suburb for nine months when she put in a request for three weeks off to perform the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
 
The school denied her request, stating that it could not afford to lose its only math lab instructor for three weeks during the end of the marking period, an important time. Ms. Khan resigned from her position and made the trip.
 
Now, the Justice Department is intervening on her behalf, claiming that the school’s refusal to allow the time off amounts to religious discrimination. Under the Justice Department’s suit, the school violated Ms. Khan’s civil rights by making her choose between her job and her religious practice.
 
The lawsuit is drawing lots of fire from those who say it is a pretense. “As the case moves forward in federal court in Chicago, it has triggered debate over whether the Justice Department was following a purely legal path or whether suing on Khan’s behalf was part of a broader Obama administration campaign to reach out to Muslims.” (Washington Post)
 
Michael Mukasey, attorney general under G.W. Bush, calls it a “dubious judgement” and “a real legal reach,” while Thomas Perez, current attorney general for civil rights, says the Justice Department is “trying to defend the religious liberty our forefathers fought for.” (UPI)
 
A New Set of Hearings
On the heels of Rep. Peter King’s hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims comes a new set of hearings, this time on defending Muslims-Americans’ civil rights.
 
In a statement released Tuesday night, Senator Dick Durbin, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, Human Rights, and the Law and host of the hearings, emphasized that the Constitution “protects the free exercise of religion for all Americans.”
 
“During the course of our history, many religions have faced intolerance,” he said. “It is important for our generation to renew our founding charter’s commitment to religious diversity and to protect the liberties guaranteed by our Bill of Rights.” (Washington Post)