BECK: All right, for years now, it seems like the war on Christmas has only been getting worse. First, it was the mangers; then it was the trees; and then the word itself. But now a school in Illinois narrowly escaped having to ban the entire holiday.
Last night, the school board in Oak Lawn held an emergency meeting with parents over rumors that children in the district would celebrate “Winter Festivals” instead of Christmas and a “Fall Festival” instead of Halloween. It reportedly all started when a Muslim parent asked for Jell-O to be taken off the school menu and for her children to be separated from others during the Ramadan fast. That was OK with the school board, but somehow or another it morphed into equal celebration of all the holidays and has resulted in some pretty outraged parents.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s wrong. You`re in America. I`m sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To try and take our culture and wipe it from the face of the Earth is absolutely wrong.
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BECK: So where does practical religious accommodation end and catering to political correctness begin? Dr. Zudhi Jasser, he is from the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, and Ahmed Rehab, he is the executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Chicago.
Let me start with you, Ahmed. You said — and I want to get this quote right here — you said that, “Some of the locals don`t come across as incredibly educated. There`s Budweiser anger there.” What do you mean by that?
AHMED REHAB, EXEC. DIR., CAIR-CHICAGO: I mean it is not the type of America that we are aspiring to have. It is not the pluralistic, inclusive, educated America that we try to teach our children to embrace. They’re trying to exclude Muslims from celebrating their festivities. No Muslim involved in this raucous at any point wanted to remove Christmas or Hanukkah or even Halloween from the school festivities. All they wanted to do was to bring in Ramadan. And some of the parents — who were essentially racist — felt that this threatened their very being and decided to take the decorations down, couldn’t tolerate that.
BECK: It’s cool to throw around the “racist” word, but let’s try to keep this a civilized discussion here, because there are a lot of people that are a little upset, and it’s not just at Muslims. I mean, all the religions are upset at each other for trying to trample on the others. And I have no problem. If you want to be separated because of a fast for Ramadan or you want your children to be removed, that’s fine, but what about the Jell-O thing? I mean, you’re going to — nobody can have Jell-O because your children can’t have Jell-O?
REHAB: Christians are welcome to have pork-fortified Jell-O if they want. Muslims don’t have to have that. Jews don’t have to have that.
BECK: All right, so they don’t have to have the Jell-O.
REHAB: Well, exactly, but you’d need to offer a different type of Jell-O that doesn’t have gelatin, pork gelatin, in it, and give that option to the Muslim and Jewish students.
BECK: All right.
Zudhi, the mom just wanted to hang decorations for Ramadan. That’s how it all started. She just wanted to hang decorations for Ramadan. What`s wrong with that?
DR. M. ZUHDI JASSER, AMERICAN ISLAMIC FORUM FOR DEMOCRACY: Well, I think educating people about Ramadan — you know, I`m fasting. I always answer the question about, why am I not drinking water? Why am I not eating? I think education is important.
But decorations and trying to impose sort of a celebratory phenomenon I think crosses the line of church and state, not to mention that, in Muslim societies, we certainly celebrate the end of Ramadan, but during Ramadan, actually, I think what’s happening here is you have Muslims who are demanding to be American rather than Muslims that happen to be American.
And, you know, it’s interesting that they seem to find little battles to impose their political stances and balkanization of Muslim identity. And I really think it’s not the way to approach our current situation, when so many Americans are fearing so many things about transnational Islamism.
BECK: Would you like to respond to that, Ahmed?
REHAB: Yeah, there is absolutely no imposition of anyone’s culture here. I think Mr. Zudhi Jasser is being rather hypocritical when he says that it`s OK to have Christmas in a 50-50 school — 50 percent of the population in that school are Muslim, 50 percent are other things, including Christian. And if you can’t tell how the children….
REHAB: you can’t tell half the children that you can celebrate Christmas. and turn around and tell to the other half of the kids, listen, you`re somehow second-class citizens, your festivities are not celebrated, keep it in your homes.
JASSER: So you`d like to see America turned into a competition of holidays, from the holidays for Buddhism and Sikh and Hindu? And should we have all of a sudden every other weekend a celebration for….
REHAB: no one is saying that. That is a leap of folly. I will not even call that a leap of faith. That is a leap of folly. Nobody`s making that giant leap.
JASSER: There is one holiday in this country that has a religious base, and it’s Christmas.
(CROSSTALK) JASSER: There is one holiday in this country that is religious based and that’s christmas REHAB: This is a school with 50% Muslim students
(CROSSTALK) REHAB: We’re not asking for malls — listen, we’re not asking for malls to start celebrating Ramadan. We’re not asking for schools where there are a couple of Muslims to have anything beyond an educational canvas about Ramadan…
BECK: If you happen — Ahmed, if you happen to go up where there`s 50 percent, let`s just — I`m just making this up — 50 percent Wiccan, and it was all Muslim before that, but there`s 50 percent Wiccan, you cool with, you know, doing the pagan stuff in the school?
REHAB: Well, I think it`s a preposterous comparison, because…
BECK: No, no, sir.
REHAB: Well, listen…
BECK: You know, 50 years ago, it would have been ridiculous to say — it would have been ridiculous, sir, to say 50 years ago, to say that about America being…
REHAB: … Islam is a global religion. With 1.5 billion.. (CROSSTALK) REHAB: no, you can’t compare
BECK: OK. So in other words, you`re saying that Wiccans — are you saying, sir, that Wiccan is not a religion? Are you saying that Wiccans are not a legitimate religion?
REHAB: It is to some people, but it`s not comparable to Christianity, Islam or Judaism or any of the other large faiths in this country.
BECK: Zuhdi, thank you very much. Ahmed, as always, thank you.
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