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March 24, 2006 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-03-24

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, March 24, 2006



e ffilIrbpn &zilg

Editor in Chief

Editorial Page Editors

Managing Editor


Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All
other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their author.

It's not Islam, it's religion

t's illegal for Abdul
Rahman to be Chris-
tian in Afghanistan.
The 41-year-old converted
from Islam to Christian-
ity 16 years ago and was
arrested last month. He now
could face death sentence.
Ansarullah Mawlazeza-
dah, the presiding judge
in the case, told ABC News that "a medical team
was checking the defendant, since the team suspects
insanity caused Rahman to reject Islam."
"We will ask him if he has changed his mind
about being a Christian," Mawlazezadah also said.
"If he has, we will forgive him, because Islam is a
religion of tolerance." And if he doesn't? He dies.
CNN.com reported that: "Rahman's case has
illustrated a split in Afghanistan over interpretation
of the constitution, which calls for religious free-
dom while also stating that any Muslim who rejects
Islam should be punished by death." This underlines
a major problem with the way things are going in
parts of the Muslim world; as the United States has
struggled to rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq, we have
assumed that it's possible to rebuild those states in
roughly our image (that is, with our liberal ideas
about freedom of conscience) while endorsing fun-
damentalist Islam.
Remember the interim Iraqi constitution that was
approved in October? Like its Afghan counterpart, it
has a schizophrenic quality to it, ensuring both gen-
der equality (among other equalities) and that Islam
will be a source of legislation. How these two guar-
antees are going to be reconciled remains to be seen,
but, again, there is the pernicious assumption that
equality can coexist with fundamentalist religion.
Because this isn't about Islam as much as it's
about religion. Fundamentalist religion and liberty
can't coexist. Whenever a state draws its laws from
a hard-line reading of its holy text (whether the Bible
or Quran), liberty suffers. Plenty of people have been
quick to decry the rise of political Islam in - among
other places - Iran, the Palestinian territories and
Iraq, and they are right to do so. But what's lost -
what a country as religious as ours is far too self-con-
scious to acknowledge - is that fundamentalism,

not Islam, is the problem, and fundamentalism, not
Islam, is the ultimate enemy of the free world.
If America drew all its laws from Old Testa-
ment Biblical doctrine, it would be as brutal a place
as Afghanistan. All countries with legal systems
we would find acceptable have managed to ignore
most of their heritage's dogma, because that's what
moderate religion is - not some abstract melding of
ancient and modern principles, but pure and simple
disregard of most of what a religion entails. Moder-
ate Christians and Jews are moderate because they
ignore most of the Bible; the same goes for moderate
Muslims. Following the Quran or the Bible to the let-
ter will always be deleterious to liberty and to accept-
able standards of justice - if you doubt this, give
Deuteronomy a close read.
When fundamentalism and law become too
intertwined, cases like Rahman's will always be the
result. Unfortunately, some elements of cultural rela-
tivism have muted the outrage that should accom-
pany much of what goes on in the name of Islam. We
hear time and again that countries have the right to
make their own laws and to practice their own cul-
tures, but I'm not sure this can be taken without some
questioning. After all, it's incoherent to say both that
Afghanistan has the right to make any laws it wishes
and that Rahman has the right to be a Christian in
Afghanistan. I'm much more sure about the second
half of that sentence than the first.
That's not to say, of course, that we have the right
to invade any country we wish in the name of lib-
erty or justice. But what it does mean is that it's time
to question the cozy relativism we're accustomed to
wrapping ourselves in; basic standards of human
rights and decency deserve an exalted position, not
to be brushed aside as relics of culture. The civilized
world allows people freedom of conscience and reli-
gion because its members understand certain things
about what it means to be human, what it means to
question and ponder and exist as a free agent - it's
not a mere accident of culture, but rather a wonder-
ful progression that has taken thousands of years to
solidify. If you're the religious type, pray for Abdul
Rahman, an innocent man trapped in an utterly
backward place.
Singal can be reached atjsingal@umich.edu.

Putting the
'I' in iPods
wear nametags.
That way we'd be
able to say hi to
each other as we
walk by, and let's
face it: You don't
kill someone if
you know their name. Alas, this only
works in the world of "Seinfeld" - real
life, just as much in need of amity and
kindness, is not that simple.
A couple of weeks ago, I had to bring
some old textbooks to campus to finally
sell back after months of procrastination.
Because they wouldn't fit in my usual
backpack, I carried an extra bag, which
must have weighed in somewhere around
70 pounds. Being a commuter, I had to
take the bus from an off-campus park-
ing lot. In the bustle of finding a seat on
the bus while balancing two heavy bags
and a forbiddingly fluffy winter coat, I
didn't notice that my extra bag became
caught up in a seat. As I yanked it free,
a seam split and everything from "The
Economics of Public Issues" to "South-
East Asia: A Political Profile" scattered
I half expected a rush of people to help
me retrieve my belongings, but looking
back on it now, I see this was an unfair
expectation. It was 10:30 in the morning;
these people had had a trying commute
and were just beginning to momentarily
relax when I decided to litter everything
I owned at their feet. No, they should not
have to set aside their newspapers for half
a second and pick up the one book lying on
their feet; it was my job to spend the next
10 minutes collecting books, pencils and
loose papers from sticky corners, under-
neath seats and between people's legs, all
while stumbling and tumbling as the rick-
ety bus barreled down State Street.
I seriously believe that three years ago,
this situation would have been different.
Though they still would be able to avert
their eyes and pretend to not see what was
happening, the others on the bus could
not have pretended to not hear my disas-
ter and would have been compelled to
pick up at least the one thing lying closest
to them. Which brings me to the ultimate
evil I encountered that day - iPods.
Americans are known worldwide
for being some of the most impersonal,
uncongenial people anywhere. From our
"plastic smiles" to our superficial small
talk, we're all too happy to just give a
feeble "What's up?" (not expecting an
actual answer, of course) before moving
on along our way. Where Europeans may
hug and even kiss, a simple, meaningless
hand wave is a viable enough greeting for
the average American.
While sad, this is fine - until we real-
ize we are becoming more and more curt
and cold as we go along. Just a couple of
decades ago, we still valued the commu-
nity atmosphere of town living, but now
many people may go through a whole
day without having an actual conversa-
tion. Technology is flying ahead, and
its advance gives us the opportunity to
avoid many personal encounters, but the
level of unfriendliness found in everyday
encounters today is troubling.
Being withdrawn to our own thoughts,
reading or music during the little bits of
downtime we get between the stressful
endeavors of everyday life is understand-
able, but it's becoming easier - and thus

more common - today. Whereas in the
past, two passengers may have actually
talked to each other, today every pas-
senger dons sleek white headphones and
dreamily hums to himself.
It seems 90 percent of the University
owns an iPod, or at least some sort of
MP3 player. No longer do people use
the walk between classes to converse
with friends or soak in the sounds of the
world around them. Instead, they know-
ingly choose to become oblivious to
everything around them by immersing
themselves completely in the high-deci-
bel tunes escaping from their earbuds.
Now I hear even class lectures are avail-
able via podcast - so there's yet another
social encounter we can avoid. Staying
in one room all day, speaking on the
cell phone, task managing on the PDA,
text messaging on the Blackberry and
doing class work on the iPod can con-
stitute a whole day and no other people
are required. Brilliant. As if cell phones
were not impersonal enough, iPods now
give people yet another way of ignoring
everyone around them.
America has always been about the
individual. From self-starters to entre-
preneurial visionaries, our society values
individual ingenuity above all else. But
in today's polarized world, withdrawing
ourselves further from our community is
not the answer. Perhaps it's time we came
to~' accent the facrt that we do not need to


Send all letters to the editor to tothedaily@michigandaily.

Controversial artwork
celebrates freedoms
Thank you so much for publishing a photo
of Natsuko Katayama's "Hermaphrodite" on
your front page (Artwork spurs controversy
at Flint, 03/22/05). Your action signified to
me freedom of expression, freedom of the
press and freedom to celebrate the androgy-
nous elements that exist within each of us. It
should remind us that there are fundamen-
tally as many different kinds of sexuality as
there are individuals.
Theodore Grenier
MSA annoying, should
leave students alone
I hate to break the hearts of all the stu-
dent politicians who have spent the past
week bothering people in the Diag and get-
ting up before class to chalk sidewalks, but
elections are now over. I'd like to breathe
a collective sigh of relief for us normal
people on campus who simply didn't care
and hopefully send some kind of message
to those people who have been flooding
my inbox for the last two days. Aside from
the fact that I got to feel extremely popular
for the few seconds I spent waiting for my
inbox to load before I noticed that 25 out of
the 27 messages that I received overnight
were from people arguing about platform
inconsistencies and whining about rules
violations, the nature of elections here at
the University just isn't conducive to mak-
ing me care about anything regarding stu-
dent politics.
I think a recent email from the Michi-
gan Progressive Party sums up my indiffer-
ence and frustration appropriately: "Does
election spam drive you crazy? So far this
election, Students 4 Michigan has sent over

500,000 unsolicited campaign emails. Did
this attack on your inbox make you feel
better about student government or encour-
age you to vote? The Michigan Progres-
sive Party realizes that no one likes being
besieged by election spam." Now, I appre-
ciate that the MPP realizes that people are
sick of elections and sick of spam, but what
I can't understand is why they would send
me an unsolicited email accusing Students
4 Michigan of sending unsolicited emails.
If they haven't figured it out yet, this is
why nobody cares about elections. Please,
go back to planning Ludacris concerts or
dressing "business casual" - do whatever
makes you feel important, just leave me
Franklin Shaddy
LSA freshman
Placing artwork on front
page 'in questionable taste'
When I finally got my hands on a Daily
Wednesday afternoon, I was very surprised
to see a picture of a naked person on the
front page. Never mind the fact that the per-
son was a hermaphrodite; if I wanted to see
nudity, I could just Google it. One would
think that because the picture was so con-
troversial that it had to be removed from
the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender
offices, it might offend some people's sen-
sibilities. So what reason, other than shock
value, is there to running a picture - char-
coal drawing or not - of a naked person on
the front cover?
The Daily could have put the picture on
its website and directed individuals to go
there if they were interested in seeing what
had caused such an uproar in Flint. But to
put it on the front page, where people have
to see it, is in questionable taste.
David Swedler
Public Health

Solidarity from unexpected sources

There is no place left on this University campus
that is safe. Speaking out seems to create more of
a gap of power between the University's admin-
istration and the student body. Students of color,
along with staff and faculty, have long been the
casualties of discriminatory policies and - more
informally but arguably more rampantly - the
targets of racist and chauvinistic actions from
individuals within University administration and
institutions. Despite a lengthy history, there has
been a disturbing increase both in the number and
boldness of hate incidents in recent years.
It is useful to point out a few episodes that high-
light the trend. Take the case of Arab students. For
all admissions to the University, the checkbox for
white students reads as follows: "Caucasian/White
(not of Hispanic origin, but having origins in any
of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or
the Middle East)." While the system of checkboxes
is inherently over-simplistic, this categorization of
Arab students leaves them powerless to even check
the "Other" category, making invisible an entire
community to counseling services and ethnicity-spe-
cific scholarships and opportunities. At events advo-
cating for Arab rights, and sometimes on the Daily's
editorial page, students and faculty have been called
"terrorists" all the way to "camel jockeys"
In our current school year, there have been numer-
ous amateur-style cartoons and articles published in
the Daily essentializing all Arabs and Muslims, per-
petuating the "camel jockey" and "terrorist" image.
On April 8, in the Michigan Union Ballroom, there
will be the third annual Arab culture show, which
has received unprecedented support in the past not
only from the Arab community, but also from other
students of color. The continuing growth of commu-
nication and informal networks made between dif-
ferent groups in such trying times has been nothing
short of inspirational.
The Michigan Daily, in allowing for independent
submissions, has encouraged discrimination of all
people of color. While clearly the Michigan Civil
Rights Initiative is an issue that merits discussion,
it is one matter to deal with the topic at hand and

tile and even violent campus atmosphere.
It has gone even further this year, unfortunate-
ly, with the hate crime on two Asian students in
September 2005. There were attempts to actually
excuse the hate crimes and use it as an opportunity
to glorify the University's "diversity" efforts. Dis-
appointingly, President Coleman left the campus
with unnerving remarks, stating that "every year
we have thousands of new students who come to
us who may not understand what we expect" and
"it is possible that some people don't realize they
are being offensive when they say something" The
campus has become an environment where pouring
beer on people because of their race has become
excusable. But as has been the case when the Uni-
versity fails, the students and concerned faculty
have come together. For months after the incident
took place, there were discussions being held, press
releases issued from students and faculty and events
to educate the community. In the face of aggression,
there grew a self-contained movement of commu-
nities to improve on a basic need: safety.
The responsibility and ownership of such
crimes takes on another dimension when there is
active institutional involvement or complacency,
as in the case of Michigamua. Michigamua is still
a secretive organization on campus, and the most
recent knowledge of the organization has shown
that it is still practicing the same racist rituals
using the same stolen artifacts that the founders
had taken decades ago. In the absence of admin-
istrative action, there has been a historic show of
solidarity for years by student activists. Diversity
is not about equal opportunity; it is about equality.
Although there is no law against tokenization, it
leaves more than just a suspicion that students are
a disposable commodity.
This does not leave students wavering, though,
but rather with one of their greatest assets - clear
paths of communication and cooperation. Students
at the University have a situation that is possibly
unlike any other in the country, where different
communities on campus have such a commonality
of struggles and achievements, especially because
of their similar mistreatment. So while this is a par-
ticularly difficult time, it is also a time of unprec-

Editorial Board Members: Amy Anspach, Andrew Bielak, Kevin Bunkley, Gabrielle DAngelo,
Whitney Dibo, Milly Dick, Sara Eber, Jesse Forester, Mara Gay, Jared Goldberg, Mark Kuehn,
Frank Manley, Suhael Moin, Kirsty McNamara, Rajiv Prabhakar, Katherine Seid, Ben Taylor,
Jessica Teng, Rachel Wagner.


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