portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting global

human & civil rights

Public prayers in America

A Muslim woman finds trouble instead of prayers in Fitness USA
I caught a short news flash (all that is offered anymore) on corporate media regarding the humiliation of a Muslim woman who tried to pray in her local gym. This happened in the Fitness USA gym in Dearborn, but, sad to say, it could have happened anywhere. Wardeh Sultan prays five times daily and while she was at the gym, she realized that it was time for her 3 o'clock prayers. She and a friend found a quiet out of the way place to pray, but another gym member 'took offense' to the activity and complained to the management. Wardeh Sultan was asked to turn in her membership card. Born in Jordan, of Palestinian descent, Sultan arrived in Detroit 17 years ago, before moving to Dearborn. She is an American citizen. Sultan said she came to the United States to secure her freedom and to avoid intolerance.
"We're here in the great United States and for this happening, it truly breaks my heart," she said. "You know, things are starting to change backwards, instead of frontward. We need to keep this United States, our country, up on our shoulders. We don't want it to go down."Imad Hamad, regional director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, which lodged a formal complaint with Fitness USA on behalf of Sultan, said the recent spate of conflicts results from a growing intolerance of Islam and a growing restiveness among Muslims that their rights to speak freely and worship are increasingly at risk. This brings to mind the Muslim men who were kicked off of an airplane for praying. I do not know the gym's side of this issue, and tried to call the corporate offices, but they were closed for the day. According to Gregg Krupa of The Detroit News, Jodi Berry, executive director of Fitness USA said,"We will, as we will with any complaint involving our staff and a member, be doing a full and thorough investigation of the matter and take any appropriate action we need to take. We want every member to get a good exercise experience every time they come to the club." Their hours are 8 to 5 Eastern time. The number there is 1-800-554-5100.