Monday, April 11, 2011

Muslim Days at the Ballpark?

From USA Today:

The issue of religious freedom vs. separation of church and state is always dicey and sports is not immune.

But a national Muslim advocacy group doesn't think it's appropriate for teams to mix religion and sports. If sports teams are going do it, then the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) wants equal time for other religions.

"The ultimate test of this kind of policy would be to have a Muslim Family Day — and gauge the public reaction to it," says CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper. "Given the heightened state of anti-Muslim sentiment in our society, I have a feeling there would be some objections to that."

The Oakland A's, for example, will hold their first Jewish Heritage Night against the Los Angels May 17. Attendees get an A's yarmulke and a seat in the plaza infield section for $26.
Other baseball teams are involved:

* The Florida Marlins will hold their first Inspirational Forum after a game, with outfielder Chris Coghlan discussing his devotion to his faith.

* The Kansas City Royals will hold their third Faith & Family Day.

* The Colorado Rockies will hold their fifth Faith Day for all faiths this season

* And the Philadelphia Phillies stage their fourth Jewish Heritage Night.

A number of points need to be made.

First, there is provably far more anti-semitism in America than "Islamophobia," so Hooper's statement is once again an attempt to inflate a phenomenon that is virtually nonexistent.

Another point is this one, from the first article:

Steve Fanelli of the A's says pro sports teams are offering religious-themed nights to move group ticket sales and because religious groups in their community approach them.

"Beyond religion it's the same philosophy for any theme day: give fans a chance to enjoy baseball with their group and get together in an environment they may not otherwise choose to," Fanelli says.

The theme days are simply a way to make extra money, and the religious groups themselves request it. If CAIR tells the Detroit Pistons that an "Islamic Day" would bring in 3000 extra ticket sales, they would hold one.

So why aren't there any Muslim Family days at baseball parks and basketball arenas? The answer is indirectly given by the atheist quoted in the second quoted article:

Teams have pushed ethnic heritage days for years. But religion? That's problematic, answers Blair Scott, spokesman for American Atheists. It's not illegal, but Scott believes it's unethical.

"They're out to make a buck. They're taking advantage of people's religiosity to make that buck."

Scott doubts he'll ever see "Atheist Day" at stadiums.

"When you have a Super Bowl party in the atheist community, two people show up. We don't tend to be big sports fans."

If there is enough interest in Muslim community for a theme night, it will happen. Are Muslims great sports fans? I know that even religious Jews in the US are huge sports fans, enough that many major stadiums offer kosher food to accommodate them.

Lastly, and most importantly, when Jewish or other groups have theme nights in the stadiums, they are done from the perspective of having a positive, fun night out. It is not a "demand" for equal time with other ethnic or specialized theme nights; it is simply a chance to get groups to come out and have a good time. No one requires that the stadiums accommodate any religious requirements.

Now, would any Muslim group support an official visit to a sports event where there are, for example, cheerleaders? Or would they try to say that there should be no cheerleaders for Muslim Family Night? I don't know the answer.

If Hooper wants equal time, let him organize a Muslim night in areas where there are large Muslim communities. No one will stop him - unless he starts demanding that the stadiums provide places for prayer or ritual washing or that they stop selling pork products on that night.

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