Appeals Court Defends Woman's Right to Choose Mecca Pilgrimage Over Work

May 27, 2005

Source: Duluth News Tribune

On May 27, 2005 the Duluth News Tribune reported, "an appeals court ordered state labor officials Thursday to reconsider forcing a Muslim woman to repay unemployment benefits after she turned down work so she could make a pilgrimage to Mecca. The 4th District Court of Appeals reversed a finding by the state Labor and Industry Review Commission, which ruled Salwa Rashad didn't have to undertake the hajj immediately and could have accepted work. Every able-bodied Muslim is required to make the pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca in Saudi Arabia at least once in their lifetime if they can afford it. The court ordered the commission to reconsider its ruling in light of the First Amendment, which protects freedom of religion. At stake for Rashad are unemployment benefits. She isn't eligible for them if she turns down a job without good cause. The case began in December 2002, when Rashad was a part-time instructor at Madison Area Technical College."