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March 05, 2004 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-03-05

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, March 5, 2004



opinion. michigandaily.com

SINCE 1890

Editor in Chief
Editorial Page Editor

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of
the Daily's editorial board. All other articles, letters and cartoons do not
necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

Iknow in my heart
that President Bush
failed the 3,000
Americans that died
there on that day."
- Patty Cassaza, whose husband died in
the Sept. 11 attacks, commenting on the
new series of ads being run by the Bush
campaign, as reported yesterday by CNN.

54a *



Ashcroft and me
T he personal is politi- With a name like Hussain Rahim, perhaps I Next step was questioning about what I did
cal. After a brief should be a little less sardonic with the airport at the stamped locations on my passport.
respite from the gray lady, but as private as I am, I'd rather not divulge With passport in hand he said, "When was
doldrums of ice and bore- what used to be my personal life and activities, the last time you went to Grenada?"
dom it was time to return to but like a deal-cutting junkie. So she put my "I don't know, you have my passport in your
the magic of Michigan. passport in the little terrorism baggie and said, hand, look at the stamp."
Upon the return to Ameri- "Go right on over to C.C.A." I was maybe one step away from the
can soil, everyone has to go Ok, well, what the fuck is C.C.A.? Capture lawyer-free, government-sponsored boat
through all the usual checks Crazy Arabs or some other inane acronym? ride to Guantanamo Bay.
to make sure they weren't So I go off in this little room to the side of it Although I don't memorize passport stamps,
hanging out on farms, swapping viruses or plot- all, and I wait for my name to be called. I reach I sure as hell knew the last time I was in Grena-
ting with terrorist cells. Upon my reception at the front desk and inquire to what it is exactly da. The reason I can still recall the date is
Immigration by an angry-looking white woman, C.C.A. stands for. It's hard to keep up with all because shortly after I came back, I remember
perhaps my spirits were still a bit high for what I the new governmental agencies. He tells me that getting off the train at the stop before the World
was about to encounter. "It's just the name for who brought you here." Trade Center and then watching a trail of smoke
I step up and hand her my passport, and she "So then what is this place?" come over the Brooklyn Bridge with great con-
asks me to take off my hat, as part of what I "Oh, this is airport security." fusion, only to later encounter the burnt flesh
imagine is the turban-check portion of re-entry. Didn't buy it. Now I didn't even know what I smell and rubble that was downtown Manhattan.
She inquires, "Is this you?" To be met with an "I was being questioned by. I have seen terrorism. I know what it does
sure hope so," which got the cold stare of her The paradox was undeniable, yet amus- and I know its reality. I also know America. Or
already annoying face. Please don't make jokes ing. When I went away for my vacation, I at least I know an America. A retired man I met
in airports; they're the new funeral homes. So I was sure to locate the U.S. embassy just in over the vacation shared with me his reasons for
quickly amended that to "Um, yes, that's me." case. As I sat there, I wondered whom I permanently leaving the United States. I coun-
As she reads through the stamps she says, could call and what the embassy could do. tered his reasoning with what I liked about
"You've been to some unusual places." Then I realized, "Hot shit, I am in Ameri- America and why I saw myself living there and
That was a little too dumb to even ca." This is the country of my birth and enjoying its remaining freedoms - all pre-
respond to. citizenship. Ain't no embassy left to call. shakedown of course.
"So why are you going to all these places?" Then, in good old TV courtroom fashion, he This tale is very anticlimactic because
More silence. shot off a list of questions about my biography I'm clearly here now, safe and sound, but now
I said "Are you serious? Is that a real ques- that I didn't even know the answers to. a little more experienced and world-weary
tion I'm supposed to answer?" "Where do you live?" than before. Maybe for the next trip I can stay
With some indignation, she says "Well, "Where do you go to school?" away longer until my America comes back.
yes, it is." "What do you do there?"
"Well, I like to travel. That's still "Do you work? Is that how you paid for Rahim can be reached at
allowed, isn't it?" your trip?" hrahim@umich.edu.
Forget freedom fries, let's talk scarfheads

As a symbol of inter-
national friendship
forged during the
American Revolution,
France gave the United
States the Statue of Liberty
in 1886. For more than a
hundred years, we've looked
to Lady Liberty, the "Moth-
er of Exiles," to represent
the democracy and freedom we so strongly wish
for (wish upon?) the world. How can she not be
an inspiration, with her whole:
"Give me your tired, your poor, / Your hud-
dled masses yearning to breathe free, / The
wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send
these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, / I lift
my lamp beside the golden door!"
It's fun to pretend, isn't it? If Lady Liberty
could speak today, she would sadly tell France
that it has indeed lost its way.
On Wednesday, the French Senate voted
276 to 20 to prohibit "signs and dress that con-
spicuously show the religious affiliation of stu-
dents" in its public schools. The vote paralleled
last month's overwhelming approval by the
equally conservative-filled National Assembly
(494-36). The last formality rests with avid
supporter President Jacques Chirac, who is
expected to sign the measure into law within
the next two weeks.
Though the ban includes Jewish skullcaps,
large crucifixes and possibly Sikh turbans, many
criticize the measure as a thinly veiled (pardon
the pun) attempt to stanch the nation's growing
Muslim population. Still, most of the French
bigwigs contend that the ban is merely designed
to preserve the sacred secularism promised to
the people by their constitution.
The bizarre part is that Article 1, which
declares France "a Republic, indivisible, secular,
democratic and social," actually affirms free-
dom of religion in the very next breath, stating

that France must ensure the "equality of citizens
before the law, without distinction of origin, race
or religion. It shall respect all beliefs." It looks
like the founding fathers understood that the
practice of religion in society would not prevent
the application of secularism in government.
But now, government is putting its grubby old
paws all over that sacred constitution's respect
for all origins, races and religions.
What's going on here? We've got a sworn
democracy that gives out metal women to prove
its commitment to liberty - forbidding its chil-
dren the freedom to express their religious
beliefs at school? How, exactly, has a student's
headscarf/skullcap/crucifix threatened secular
law or disturbed the learning process? Don't tell
me you can't complete a math problem because
there's a turban in your face. In 1989, the French
Constitutional Council declared it illegal to
establish unconditional school bans on religious
garb. What changed in the last 15 years to
prompt this blatant turnaround?
Well, Sept. 11, for one thing. The backlash
Muslims saw here in the U.S. was nothing com-
pared to France, whose National Consultative
Commission on Human Rights has documented
numerous cases of harassment, adding that the
number of crimes reported "fall well under the
real number" of incidences that have occurred
against French Muslims. With around five mil-
lion Muslims, or 8 percent of the population,
France is home to the largest Muslim communi-
ty in Western Europe. That growth does not sit
well with many of France's higher-ups, who see
it as trouble brewing in a "fundamentalist"
sense. As Bernard Stasi, head of the French
commission on secularism, eloquently put it in a
December discussion about the merits of the
ban: "We must be lucid - there are in France
some behaviors which cannot be tolerated.
There are without any doubt forces in France
which are seeking to destabilize the republic,
and it is time for the republic to act"
By act, Stasi must have meant weeding out
the droves of extremist Muslims, Christians,

Jews and Sikhs who have attempted to sport
their religious symbols at school, right? But
according to The London Times, French govern-
ment statistics show that no more than 2,000 out
of 1.8 million Muslim schoolgirls wore a hijab
in 2002. To the burgeoning Muslim population,
the ban, then, is more a symbolic snub than a
sweeping act of oppression. But symbolism
smarts - and spreads.
I'm afraid it's not all good in the hood any-
more, folks. According to CNN, last month's
public opinion polls indicated about 70 percent
of the French were in favor of the ban on reli-
gious symbols. It added that even in the French
Muslim community, Muslim women favored a
ban 49 percent to 43 percent, presumably
because many female students were bullied into
donning the covering by their family members.
In Germany and Belgium, similar legislation to
ban hijabs is on the table, and such restrictive
measures already exist to varying degrees in
Singapore and Turkey.
With more than a billion followers, Islam is
certainly not a monolith, and the debate over
hijab has always been a rich and passionate one
within the Muslim community. I say keep that
debate where it belongs - with the people -
and not with national governments, where the
headscarf controversy has become an ugly,
politicized and heartbreaking display of bigotry
and intolerance. We spend so much time criti-
cizing third-world countries for their "back-
wards" ways, and it's hypocritical and insulting
to look the other way while a country like
France pays lip-service to ideals like liberty and
democracy. Enough is enough. Lady Liberty is
turning over in her grave. Old-school journalist
Dorothy Thompson had it right when she said,
"It is not the fact of liberty but the way in which
liberty is exercised that ultimately determines
whether liberty itself survives."
Khatri can be reached at



Public opinion does not
justify a constitutional
marriage amendment
I am writing in response to Thursday's front-
page article (Critics of same-sex marriages speak
out, 03/04/04) in which Robert Raham, co-chair
of Young Americans for Freedom, supported his
opposition to gay marriage with, "marriage
obn lAh __ar n mna nt] - _a unm n

ing, does not justify the denial of rights. Mar-
riage for homosexuals is a matter of ethics; it
cannot be denied because a plurality is afraid of
granting equal rights to other minorities. Morals
and ethics are separate. One's morals may not
permit homosexual marriages, but that is of no
consequence, because ethics demand equality.
LSA freshman
Reader: Where is the

dom member Jeston La Croix, whose main
argument is "I don't feel it's acceptable." It
seems to be one of two arguments that were pre-
sented, along with "God said so." Neither of
these arguments lead me to give any credit to
those making them.
My second point about this issue is about
the media, which announces that most Ameri-
cans are against any kind of gay marriage or
civil union. I have many conservative, Republi-
can and religious friends, and when I ask them
about this topic, they all say things like "Oh, I


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