Dawud Walid, local spokesman for CAIR Michigan, posted the following on his personal blog on Tuesday:
Revisiting the facts regarding "foot bath" controversy at U of M - Dearborn
Regarding the ongoing controversy about the scheduled installation of "foot baths" at the University of Michigan - Dearborn, I'd like to present the following facts:
Fact #1 - The installation of the foot baths at the University of Michigan - Dearborn in two unisex bathrooms are not Muslim only bathrooms. They are open to the entire public regardless of their gender or religion.
Fact #2 - Safety modifications are frequently made in public areas when the need arises. The university cannot legally say that no one can wash their feet for prayer or any other reason. Having people wash their feet in high traffic bathrooms causing the floor to get wet presents a safety hazard to all that enter.
Fact #3 - Most people get grossed out seeing someone washing their feet in a face bowl. For hygiene purposes, people would shy away from using a face bowl where someone just washed their feet in it.
Fact #4 - Public educational institutions factor in religious needs all the time. Although masked in non-religious language, schools close during Christmas and Easter time because it would not be feasible to leave the schools open when a vast majority of the students are going to be absent. In the Philadelphia and New York City, schools are closed for Yom Kippur for the same reason, right? If any district or university has a sizeable religious population outside of these two, should they not be accomodated as well?
The ACLU's position of not fighting the foot bath issue is based upon facts #1 and #2.
The hypocrisy of the whole situation, however, resides in fact #4. The loudest voices against the "footh bath" situation are themselves fundamentalists within their own faiths, bordering on being zealots. Their Islamophobic rhetoric is veiled under the guise of separation of church and state. The zealots, however, have no problem with their faiths being accommodated [sic].
You may recall that director of the Michigan ACLU, Kary Moss, took a vain stab at defending the foot baths (which are being built purposely top facilitate Muslims’ prayers), as being a “reasonable accommodation,” and "an attempt to deal with a problem, not an attempt to make it easier for Muslims to pray."
Once the laughter died down, the Moss and ACLU had stopped talking. They were contacted recently for a July 10 CNSNews article, (“Mosque and State: Taxpayer Dollars, Time Devoted to Islam in Schools”), but declined to add anything until their “formal opinion” was issued on July 14.
Well, July 14 came and went, and there’s been no sign of any formal opinion, though we at DU have been anxiously looking for it, damned curious to see the ACLU’s reasoning.
Instead, what we get is Dawud Walid “revisiting” the controversy at his blog, even though a controversy requires a forum for discussion, and the local media has presented a united front against discussing this topic. For a summary of media discussion of this story since the one-day report 5 weeks ago, there is this:
[CUE CRICKET SOUNDS].
In Tuesday's post, Walid attempts to explain himself the ACLU’s decision not to fight the foot baths. But I find it hard to believe the ACLU would ever endorse his reasoning.
Walid repeats that the foot baths are not targeted to favor the Muslim students because they’ll be “open to the entire public regardless of their gender or religion.”
The ACLU knows, even if Walid doesn’t, that this isn’t the standard that applies. The ACLU still battles nativity scenes, portraits of Jesus Christ, and replicas of the Ten Commandments in public places, even when “the entire public” is welcome to look at them, not just Christians. The point isn’t whether the suspect government action is open to all, it’s whether or not the government action endorses a particular religion.
As it does, for instance, in constructing purpose-built Muslim foot baths.
Nor are we buying Walid’s attempt to categorize the installation of ritual foot baths as “safety modifications frequently made in public areas when the need arises.”
This is either a religious accommodation, or it is a safety issue, but not both. The foot baths don’t compare to handicap toilets or wheelchair ramps. No one ever suggested the rest room sinks weren’t safe for washing faces and hands. If people washing their feet in busy rest rooms is a safety hazard (likely), then the University can remedy the problem by posting signs forbidding the practice.
It’s true, as Walid says, that the University “cannot legally say that no one can wash their feet for prayer or any other reason.” But that doesn’t mean the University can’t intervene to stop an unsafe, unhygienic, and irritating practice in student rest rooms. They can say you can't wash your feet in the handbowls, especially if it's not safe. They enforce the smoking ban, don’t they?
Yet Walid is just stuck on the notion that, if the government doesn’t provide people the means to “wash their feet for prayer,” then the government is actually forbidding people from practicing their religion.
I’m having trouble believing the legal eagles at the ACLU provided Walid with these talking points. But if they did, I’m not surprised they’ve been unwilling to include them in their own “formal opinion.”
Walid, as always, ends his remarks by attacking critics of the foot baths, "the loudest voices," as Islamophobes, in this case presuming to understand our inner characters as "fundamentalists...bordering on zealots."
I don't know how he can say we're the loudest voices, when even though we've tried to be loud, no one can hear a thing we're saying. As for whether or not I'm a fundamentalist, he has no way of knowing that, anyway. Nor do I think Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which tends to agree with us, (on this one at least), is a "fundamentalist" organization.
Is this really what the ACLU has in mind?