Sunday, September 16, 2007

New Airport Caters To Muslims

When the city's new $1 billion airport facility opens next year, a bathroom used by taxi cab drivers will be equipped with foot baths to allow Muslim taxi cab drivers to perform their cleansing ritual ablution, or "wudu", to prepare for prayer. That has some critics arguing a violation of the church/state separation. The Star's Francesca Jarosz writes:

Three times a day during their shifts at the Indianapolis International Airport, more than 100 Muslim cab drivers wash their feet.

In the parking lot where they wait to be dispatched, some fill plastic bottles with water and pour it over the right foot, then the left. Others clean their feet in the restroom sink.

The practice is the last step in a ritual called ablution -- "wudu" in Arabic -- which involves washing several parts of the body to cleanse before Muslims' five daily prayers.

And by November 2008, when the new $1.07 billion airport terminal is scheduled to be complete, the restroom near the parking lot where taxi drivers stay between runs will include floor-level sinks that will make their daily ritual easier.

Such foot baths have started to crop up across the country, in schools such as the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where more than 10 percent of students are Muslims, and at airports such as Kansas City International Airport.

They have drawn the ire of bloggers and pundits, who say they violate the separation of church and state, and the praise of advocacy groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Airport officials say they saw a need for the sinks after employees reported that some of the drivers were washing their feet in hand sinks. They perceived that as a safety hazard.

"We recognize that the practice does go on," said Greta Hawvermale, senior director of engineering and environment for the Indianapolis Airport Authority. "We're looking at how it can be done in a safe way."

Specifics of the foot baths' size and design are not complete. At most, there would be one in the men's restroom and another in the women's . . .

But some critics say these foot baths are religious facilities in a public place -- and a clear constitutional violation.

Robert Spencer founded the group Jihad Watch, which aims to raise awareness of what its founders perceive as a proliferation of Islamic law into mainstream society. Spencer compares installing a foot bath in a restroom to putting in a holy water font to accommodate Catholic cab drivers.

"The only conceivable group that will use the foot bath are Muslims for prayer," Spencer said. "It's a religious installation for a religious use."

Airport officials say they see it differently.

"These facilities are for everybody's use," said David Dawson, spokesman
for the new terminal project.


If the foot baths are for everybody's use, as Dawson contends, why aren't they being installed in all of the bathrooms at the new airport? And if they are being installed to accommodate Muslim taxi cab drivers as is obviously the case, then why aren't similar accommodations being provided for Muslim airline passengers who patronize the airport? It looks like a slippery slope to me. What do you think?

Here's the ACLU's statement explaining why it chose not to file suit against the University of Michigan after it installed foot baths in campus restrooms. While the ACLU acknowledged that the expenditure of public funds to facilitate a religious practice raised red flags, it found the university's motivation for installing the foot baths was a "practical cleanliness and safety issue." Basically, the ACLU felt the Muslim students would wash their feet in the restroom whether or not the foot baths were made available. If they had to use the sinks, the concern was the bathroom floors were getting slopped up and some students didn't want to use the sinks after people washed their feet in them.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is outrageous. We cannot cater to one religious group to the exclusion of others.

Also, please note the Star has disabled the talkback feature for this story.

Anonymous said...

Uh oh, here we go, the beginning of dhimmitude. Well, if I want to use the footbath, will Ihave to pay a Jiza tax? I thnk we should sit around it smelling of BLT's. We are doomed, this is the beginnng, and Osama won.

Bil Browning said...

Blatant racism against Arabs. When they get rid of the chapel, then the Christians can claim that the airport is favoring one group over another.

Anonymous said...

100 Muslim taxi drivers??? In Indianapolis???
Who would have thought.

Anonymous said...

The airport maintains a chapel for Christians and a chaplain.....I must assume that anonymous 9:12 and anonymous 9:29 want the chapel shut down and the chaplain removed from his job....or do they think that separation of church and state only applies to Muslims.....bigotry is alive and well in Indy.

Anonymous said...

that is only 100 Muslims at the airport ...those of us who actually use taxis know that there are many more....they do a good job which is a dangerous job and I have had no problem at all. They are courteous and honest......I use taxis almost daily.

Anonymous said...

I'll vote for it if they put prayer back in the schools and the 10 comandments back in the statehouses. The government thinks if they sympathize with the muslims then maybe osoma will leave us alone.

erin said...

I think that under the O'Connor's non-endorsement test this would clearly meet the standard because whether it is "promoting" a particular religion has to be viewed by a local, informed member of the community (ie, not any American, but an Indianapolis resident) and I don't think that anyone in Indy would view this action as a government endorsement of Islam. Similar to why local municipalities can put up Menorahs under "diversity celebration"- no one honestly thinks that majority Christian communities are actually suggesting Judaism be the official or preferred religion.

I also think that this could be viewed as a free expression of religion issue and, as such, reasonable accomodation for religious beliefs is actually required. The burden is on the government as to why they cannot accomodate a particular religious expression. Seems pretty clear cut to me. I'll let any first amendment lawyers correct me if I've got it wrong though.

Advance Indiana said...

I've never been in the airport's "chapel", but these places for prayer in public buildings are typically not specific to any one religion. They could be used by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.

Anonymous said...

You're right, Gary. The airport chapel is small, and inter-denominational.

Anonymous said...

I dont recall seeing any menorahs when I was there.....

Anonymous said...

But nothing for the Japanese businessmen who like to smoke.

David said...

Wow, some of the comments in here are just ignorant. I'm looking at you, 11:09.

This is a small expense and it doesn't hurt anyone, so I don't get why everybody is making such a big deal over it.

bb said...

Listen, there is no one more in favor of church-state separation than I am. But seems like a purely practical issues. If there are an average of 250 foot washes per day (just guesstimating) in one bathroom at the airport (used by cabbies) for WHATEVER reason, and maybe one or two a day in the others (used by travelers and staff), then I have no problem with them installing a footbath to prevent footwashing in the regular sinks and the attendant risks- and this likely could be a liability risk w. water on the floor type issues. I see no reason whatsoever that the airporr should waste thousands of dollars installing footbaths in all the bathrooms if they wouldn't be used there. These seems totally sensible to me. Nothing is inherently promoting religion by having a sink. It's purely a reality- people wash their feet in one bathroom all day long, put in a footbath.

SOS said...

It appears someone of you don't want to understand what is happening around the world and in this country. Eventually, we will all be washing our feet, when the World, as Al Qaeda wants, is totally under Islamic rule.

When in Rome said...

How about banning the cleansing of feet in public sinks, just like we ban no barefeet and shirtless people in restaurants. Restrooms are for using to toilet and washing your hands--not for praying, hanging out or any other non-sense.

Or, put a Bible in each chair at the airport, on the airplanes and in each taxi for us Christians who are traveling on Sunday or religious holidays.

Lance said...

As long as the Muslim cabbies will allow blind people with dogs in their cars (like they DON'T in Minneapolis-St. Paul) who cares where they wash their feet.

Buzzy Whitlow said...

The ACLU isn't suing because the religion in question isn't Christianity. They aren't called the "Anti-Christian Litigation Unit" for nothing.

Anonymous said...

Prayer in school -- ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Pledge of Allegiance (under God) in school -- ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Prayer in Statehouse -- ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Saying “Have a Blessed Day” when you end a telephone call – ABSOLUTELY NOT!

10 Commandments hanging in government buildings -- ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Wise men/Mary/baby Jesus Creech on lawn during Christmas -- ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Saying “Merry Christmas” or Christmas Holiday in school -- ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Crosses on buildings/public land/state seals, etc. -- ABSOLUTELY NOT!

In God We Trust on our money -- ABSOLUTELY NOT!

And the list goes on and on…

SPECIAL SINKS JUST FOR MUSLIMS TO PRACTICE THEIR RELIGION -- HELL, YES!!

This is what happens when liberals/democrats are elected to run this country.

Jason said...

I'm right behind when in rome. If it was really a safety or public health issue they would ban feetwashing in public restrooms. Yet another reason the ACLU has no credibility. Footsinks for everyone? Come on, everyone I know wears shoes and even the people who wear sandals don't stop to wash their feet during the day.

This is government catering to religion. I wouldn't have a problem with it if it didn't seem like everybody who is always against it was in favor of this. You call people against the footbaths hypocrites? I say people in favor of the footbath are hypocrites.

Anonymous said...

Jason, I dont call them hypocrites...I call them hate filled bigots

Wilson46201 said...

AdvanceIndiana should also do some postings about "undocumented workers" - it would be interesting to see the same folk commenting here talking about that subject too! It's such a Republican issue...

Anonymous said...

Clean is good.

ROACH said...

If that is the worst thing that is happening at your airport bathrooms, what is the problem?
At least they arent gay-adulterous Horny Republican Senators looking for a little buggery between "Lay-overs"(!!!)
but on another note- do we know where these Muslims are from? Have they been thoroughly checked out to make sure they arent ticking Al-Qaeda time-bombs?

I suppose we will just have to make a bunch of new laws, along the lines of the ADA laws- Or let them find other jobs, if this religious nuttery of all denominations continues.

Anonymous said...

The interesting part of this story will be the first time someone is arrested for pouring a soda into the footsink under whatever hate crime legislation is on the books.

The interdenominational chapel is skirting close to the line, but expending public funds in order to help members of ONE specific religion perform religious rituals in a public restroom is crossing the line.

It is NOT the responsibility of a secular state to cater to anyone's sense of "piety".

There is a "give an inch, give a mile" argument that is invoked whenever Jesus stuff seeps into High School graduations. If you make the airport a de facto haven for conservative Islam, what will be the next demand made? Perhaps the cab drivers not only will refuse to pick up blind passengers with dogs, maybe they'll refuse service to homosexuals (you do realize that Islam in its most strict sense calls for the execution of gays).

Ideally, the example of the airport will be brought up next time Dan Carpenter or Sheila Kennedy complain that Christmas trees make them religiously uncomfortable.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing those sinks will be the perfect height for me to piss in when all the urinals are taken...

Anonymous said...

At most, there would be one in the men's restroom and another in the women's . . .

How does the author know this?

How is 1 sink sufficient for the 100 cab drivers who each need to wash their feet numerous times per day?

After the first is installed the muslim drivers will simply order the airport admin to install additional baths.

AmericanWhiteGuy said...

People don't tend to think of public restrooms, or any bathroom for that matter, in the religious sense. However, public "baths" were originally developed because of the religious significance of waters ability to wash away evil spirits.

Some religions don't believe in birth control, and we have a lot of bathrooms with changing tables. Are our public institutions promoting families?

You could ban Muslims from washing their feet in sinks. Good luck enforcing that! The primary concerns is over hygiene. I don't think anyone was sitting around one day and thought, "I feel like getting criticized today. I wonder how can we make it look like we are promoting one religion over another."

Hey, since public restrooms usually accommodate lots of people of the same sex at one time, maybe our public institutions are also promoting homosexuality? (ahem, Senator Craig).