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June 18, 2007 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2007-06-18

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Monday, June 18, 2007
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109


Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other
signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
A hand for footbaths
University footbaths satisfy student needs
ootbaths are generally unassuming bathroom
fixtures that are sometimes found in bathrooms.
You wouldn't expect them to cause too much con-
troversy - that is, until you add that Muslims use them
before praying. This is exactly what has happened at the
University's Dearborn campus, where a simple plan to
accommodate Muslim students by installingfootbaths has
exploded into an unnecessary debate about the Establish-
ment Clause, religious privilege and University spending.

Git-mo must g
Judicial branch right to check Bush's power in Guantanamo Bay


In its current form, the propos-
al would install footbaths in bath-
rooms as part of a larger building
renovation. The entire bathroom
renovation would cost $100,000,
$25,000 of which would go to the
installation of the footbaths. For
Muslim students, whose religion
traditionally requires them to
wash their feet before praying,
the footbaths could make life a
lot easier.
Predictably,the plan has caused
a great uproar in the conservative
consortium, which claims that
these accommodations consti-
tute a violation of the separation
of church and state. According
to their logic, the University is a
state-funded body that is giving
privilege to a religious group.
But this argument only shows
how little these people know
about the First Amendment.
No one would be excluded from
using the footbaths. Therefore,
installing them in no way equates
to the government forcing a cho-
sen religion onto the public. If
you want to see that sort of a
violation, try looking at the Bush
administration's stances on gay
marriage or abortion. Addition-
ally, the project's budget comes

from student fees for building
maintenance, meaning that state
funding will not be appropriated
for the project.
Yes, the plan costs money
- money that many people think
that the University shouldn't
be spending. But what the Uni-
versity is doing in Dearborn is
the same thing it does at all its
campuses: accommodates stu-
dents' religious needs. Here in
Ann Arbor, dining halls pro-
vide special meal accommoda-
tions during Lent and Passover
and students can be excused for
religious holidays if they pro-
vide appropriate documentation.
Twenty-five thousand dollars is a
small price to pay to give Muslim
students the same treatment.
One has to wonder why con-
servatives are up in arms about
the footbaths and not these other
accommodations. Unfortunately,
when you consider that Muslims
are frequently the subjects of dis-
crimination in our country, this
maybe less of a civil liberties issue
and more an issue of discrimina-
tion. The University should not let
these criticisms alter its plans or
hinder it from meeting the needs
of its students.

or the roughly 680 pris-
oners at Guantanamo
Bay, life is both a hell of
mistreatment and a legal purga-
tory that keeps them from chal-
lenging their detention. Because
of two recent decisions, though,
the Bush administration's ille-
gal policies of detaining people
indefinitely and denying them
basic human rights have inched
closer to their demise.
But the judiciary still has its
limits; nowit's Congress'sturnto
replace the 2006 law that allows
the president unlimited author-
ity in his war on terror and, more
importantly, end the disgrace
that is Guantanamo Bay.
The first of the two decisions
was passed down two weeks
ago by two military judges, who
ruled that only prisoners labeled
as "unlawful enemy combatants"
can be tried by the military com-
missions created by the Military
Commissions Act of 2006. More
specifically, the justices dis-
missed the war crimes charges
against two Guantanamo prison-
ers because the Pentagon could
only prove that they were "enemy
combatants."One ofthese prison-
ers was Salim Ahmed Hamdan,
Osama Bin Laden's chauffeur and
the plaintiff in the 2006 Supreme

Court case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld
which struck down Bush's mili-
tary courts.
The other decision came last
Monday, when the 4th U.S. Cir-
cuit Court of Appeals ruled that
Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, who
was a foreigner legally staying
in America, had the right to be
tried in a civilian court. Like
many other Guantanamo pris-
oners, al-Marri was sent to the
detention camp on suspicions
that he was a "sleeper agent"
for Al Qaeda. Monday's deci-
sion doesn't mean that al-Marri
is innocent, but rather that Bush
cannot take away his right to a
timely trial because al-Marri
was legally in America.
Together, these two deci-
sions represent another string of
defeats in the Bush administra-
tion's invisible and unlawful war.
While the Geneva Conventions
detail the appropriate treatment
of prisoners of war from states,
there is no such precedent for
the treatment of stateless pris-
oners. In response, the Bush
administration combined mili-
tary rules with civilian judicial
process - conveniently selecting
the methods of prosecution best
suited for expedient conviction
or prolonged imprisonment.

Meanwhile, Congress dis-
regarded its duty to check the
executive branch by approving
the Military Commissions Act in
2006, failing to pass an amend-
ment to give Guantanamo pris-
oners the right to habeas corpus.
Instead ofcheckingthe authority
of the president, the law codified
the president's previous policies
of torture and imprisonment,
transforming Guantanamo
Bay into a permanent solution
because Congress couldn't come
up with a better one.
But a better solution has
always existed: close Guanta-
namo Bay and reaffirm the basic
human right to a fair and timely
trial in a civilian court for every-
one, regardless of combatant sta-
tus. The judicial branch has been
getting closer to this solution,
but it is limited by the absence of
a Congressional law to interpret.
Atthe very least, Congress has
an obligation to replace the Mil-
itary Commissions Act of 2006
because it has a constitutional
role to check the excesses of the
president. But more important-
ly, Congress should be reaffirm-
ing America's role as a leader in
human rights.
Closing Guantanamo will be a
great start.



Editorial Board Members: Mike Eber, Jennifer Sussex, Kate Truesdell,
Radhika Upadhyaya, Rachel Wagner

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