Yesterday, at Playland Park in Rye, N.Y. an argument turned physical after a group of Muslims were denied access to several rides due to safety concerns surrounding their head scarves or hijabs. The NY Times, among other news outlets, has the story and it’s certainly a must read that’s emblematic of our times where religious anxiety constantly flirts with political correctness. That the events unfolded on the Muslim holiday of Id al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, only increase their consequence. While the disagreement, fight, and subsequent arrests are not novel, they provide fertile ground for us to revisit this taxing relationship between politics and sacred ritual.
Over here in Chicagoland, I celebrated Id al-Fitr with a digestive bike ride up to the city’s Desi corridor on Devon Avenue. Dripping with exertional and anticipatory sweat I proceeded into a Pakistani banquet with two coworkers/culinary concierges. While there were certainly more Muslims than Jews celebrating the end of the fast, I guiltlessly glutted myself on my favorite delicacies of Desi culture. Between the Chicken Makhani, Lamb Biryani, and Saag Paneer, the restaurant became my Playland and I giddily leaped into each roller coaster dish. My largest safety concern was a stomach ache but the waiters let me proceed at my own risk.
At Playland Park, the park employees were certainly justified in enforcing their “headgear policy” due to safety concerns like choking and potential equipment damage. They correctly attempted to rectify the situation by offering refunds to upset customers. While the source and progression of the fight remains clouded, the events are nevertheless sure to incite contentious public debate.
While I’d rather animate this debate than dive into it like I did the Lamb Biryani, I think it’s important to juxtapose my Chicago Id al-Fitr Playland with the Rye Playland. Divisive cultural clashes crop up continuously but so do harmonious happenings. I undoubtedly breached various cultural norms during a half hour dinner; yet these mistakes were swept under the table or buried in decadent saffron and ghee.
So even as political correct conflict erupts like the spices in my meal, let’s just pause to remember delicious Devon and scrumptious synergy.
Pic Credit: Express Monorail