A school district is being sued for not allowing a Muslim teacher to take unpaid leave to make a pilgrimage to Mecca.
The Federal Government has brought the case on behalf of Safoorah Khan, claiming that it is a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
It is the duty of every Muslim to join the million of pilgrims at the Hajj in Mecca at least once in their lifetime–and the middle school teacher had hoped to go in 2008.
Khan had started at Berkeley School, in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, in 2007 and asked for unpaid leave of three weeks to visit Saudi Arabia.
After the education district twice denied her request, Khan wrote to the board that ‘based on her religious beliefs, she could not justify delaying performing Hajj’.
She resigned shortly thereafter, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court.
Federal prosecutors say the leave was unrelated to her professional duties and was not set forth in the contract between the school district and the teachers’ union, thus violating her civil rights.
The government asked the court to order the school district to adopt policies that reasonably accommodate its employees’ religious practices and beliefs, and to reinstate Khan with back pay and also pay her compensatory damages.
In November 2008, Khan filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which found reasonable cause that discrimination had occurred and forwarded the matter to the U.S. Justice Department.
The school district would not comment.