Republican Mecklenburg Commissioner Jim Puckett is questioning why two colleagues want a proclamation making much of June Ramadan Month, saying it “seems a bit close to government endorsing a religion.”
A majority of six commissioners voted to approve the proclamation at Tuesday night’s meeting. Puckett and two other county commissioners, Matthew Ridenhour and Bill James, were in opposition.
“To the best of my knowledge we have never (and I don’t think it would be proper) adopted a Resolution in support of Lent (the Judean/Christian Ramadan) Easter, Christmas, Hanukkah, Passover, Yom Kippur, Pioneer Day for Mormons, or Diwali,” Puckett said in an email to colleagues Tuesday afternoon.
The county does, however, observe Christian holidays such as Christmas, giving employees time off and closing many government offices, said Commissioner Pat Cotham. Cotham and other commissioners in support of the proclamation said some people may misunderstand Islam but that local Muslims and others around the world are warm, generous people.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Puckett told Muslims in attendance that he respected their religion and appreciated their contributions. His opposition to the proclamation, he said, wasn’t out of disrespect or dislike toward the religion of Islam or Muslims.
The board’s clerk sent an email Tuesday saying the proclamation had been added to the agenda. The co-sponsors of the proclamation are Democrats George Dunlap and Dumont Clarke, according to the e-mail. At the meeting, Commissioner Trevor Fuller took the lead on introducing speakers in support of the proclamation. Those speakers also talked about the history of Islam and the traditions of Ramadan.
Ridenhour said Tuesday night he would have liked more time to consider the agenda item.
“It caught me very off guard,” Ridenhour said before adding that he respects Muslim beliefs and Ramadan.
But, like Puckett, Ridenhour said he feels a proclamation honoring a specific religious holiday wouldn’t be appropriate for a government body to endorse.
Ramadan began May 24 and runs to June 24. It is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and it’s a month in which Muslims can fast from dawn until dusk.
Jihadist propagandists have told their followers that Ramadan was a good time to kill people, and this weekend seven people were killed in an attack in London. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
Muslim religious leaders have expressed their outrage over the attacks.
Puckett said his questioning of the proclamation is not due to terrorism.
“While I find the sentiment of the reflective and positive nature of Ramadan to be worthwhile and while this time of reflection offers hope in this religion that so often is hijacked by extremist who follow a path that is diametrically opposed to what I understand the sense of Ramadan to be, I do not support the resolution,” Puckett wrote in his email. “NOT because I have an aversion to Muslims but I have an aversion to Politics and Government tangentially endorsing a religious holiday.”
Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte do make Christmas an official holiday.
“If you would like to propose that Muslims be allowed to substitute taking off for Good Friday and Christmas for two days of Ramadan or any other Muslim holiday I would FULLY support,” he wrote. “Seems only fair.”