Saturday, January 14, 2006
Several days ago, I was shocked to receive an email from a friend of mine who lives in Ann Arbor Michigan. Situated about a half-hour west of Detroit, Ann Arbor is host to The University of Michigan. As a university town, Ann Arbor attracts denziens of counter-culture folks. It is a surreal world of abject leftists and college students plying for an education. Ann Arbor has a Jewish community of approximately 5000 (out of 120,000 residents) and a growing community of vociferous Muslims (estimated at about 5000). With the rising Muslim community, attracted by the "tolerance" afforded by a contingency sympathetic to their causes, so too has risen the pervasive number of anti-Semitic incidents.
In the last several years, Ann Arbor has experienced the following anti-Semitic events:
- A Jewish student was assaulted by a series of Muslim youths travelling in an automobile see an account at http://www.aish.com/jewishissues/jewishsociety/Anti-Semitism_on_the_Street.asp.
- Another student was attacked for wearing a pro-Israel T-shirt at a bowling alley, see: http://www.uja.org/content_display.html?ArticleID=74074
- Ann Arbor has been host to a variety of anti-Israel rallies including The Palestinian Solidarity Conference, see: http://www.campus-watch.org/article/id/263
- The Hillel Student Center has been vandalized and defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti.
- The Chabad House had its Menorah destroyed in 2004, see: http://www.michigandaily.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2004/12/13/41bd63a233526?in_archive=1
In addition the University actively promotes anti-Israel professors including the notorious Juan Cole.
So, how does this all fit with the "Fifth Column"? Two new landmark events have affected this little slice of "Americana" which also have profound implications for the rest of us. The first one follows:
Last summer a young Muslim girl went to a local pool dressed in "long gym pants, a head covering and a long-sleeved collared shirt". When she entered the pool she was purportedly told to exit because her outfit was in violation of health and safety regulations. According to the information provided by the Washtenaw County website, the Pools and Recreation Department follow the State of Michigan's provisions as mandated by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Rule 325.3192 sec 6 states (http://www.deq.state.mi.us/documents/deq-dwrpd-eh-swmpl-SR_Rules_PRINT_COPY_2-8-01.pdf) , "...a person wearing street clothes or shoes, is not permitted in a swimming pool". Typically this type of rule is enacted for hygenic as well as safety reasons.
In the interim, both the Michigan ACLU headed by a self-loathing Jew named Michael Steinberg and representatives from CAIR took up the cause. As a result, the county commisioners caved in and will permit such garb. County Commissioner Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor mistakenly remarked, "We're a country built on tolerance and we have an obligation.'' Well, Mr. Smith, the United States was a nation built on the rule of law not simply "tolerance".
Who is this Comissioner Smith? According to his bio (http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/boc/members/district_10/index_html) Mr. Smith, a dyed-in-the-wool leftist, "is active in the community through his involvement with the Sierra Club, the NAACP, the ACLU and the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan. " Email Mr. Smith at: email@example.com or call him at: (734)662-0268
The full article can be found here: http://www.mlive.com/news/aanews/index.ssf?/base/news-16/113690763014580.xml&coll=2&thispage=3
Swimwear policy to accommodate religious requirements
Washtenaw County to become 1st Michigan county to implement such a policy
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
BY ART AISNER News Staff Reporter
On one of the last days of school last June, Ann Arbor resident Jumanah Saadeh, then 13, changed into long gym pants, a head covering and a long-sleeved collared shirt and joined her classmates from Ann Arbor Open School at the Rolling Hills Water Park in Ypsilanti.
The outfit was in accordance with Islam's modesty requirements, but violated health and safety regulations at the pool and lifeguards ordered her out of the water.
"This was a terribly humiliating incident for her and she felt like she was forced to choose between her religious beliefs and her classmates,'' said Michael Steinberg, legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.
After six months of planning, the county's Park and Recreation Commission is expected tonight to unanimously pass the first swimwear policy to accommodate individuals who cannot wear traditional swimsuits for religious reasons.
Washtenaw County is slated to become the first county in Michigan and possibly the nation to implement such a policy.
Steinberg, an Ann Arbor resident, said the family and school officials contacted him about the incident, prompting him to draft a letter to Parks Director Robert Tetens saying that staff violated the girl's constitutional rights to religious accommodation.
Saadeh and her family could not be reached for comment for this story, but they did attend meetings where the new policy was developed, officials said.
Fearing that someone could be seriously injured or worse and that the county, as well as their teenaged lifeguards, could be held legally responsible, Tetens said staff acted appropriately.
"There was some definite exposure there, no question.'' Tetens said. "Anyone who's ever jumped into the water in street clothes or some clothing knows how difficult it can be to move.''
Executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Dawud Walid said his organization has received only a few similar complaints over the years but noted that may be because many Muslims avoid public pools strictly because of the clothing issue.
In Islam, females approaching puberty must have their head covered, and body covered from their neck to their ankles at all times in public, said Walid. The clothing should not be form fitting.
Males may be shirtless but must be covered from above the belly button to the knee cap in non-form fitting attire, he said.
Similar requirements are customary for Orthodox Jews and the Amish, county officials said.
The proposed policy, which will apply to all county aquatic facilities, is intended to provide guidelines that protect public health and safety while accommodating the diverse community. Street clothes and shoes remain prohibited in the water, but unlike the state regulations, the proposal defines street clothes.
The parks will accommodate those who cannot wear traditional bathing suits for religious reasons by permitting appropriate clothing with the following conditions:
Clothing must allow free movement of arms and legs and be free from hardware such as belts, buckles and rivets.
The clothing material must be lightweight as to not inhibit a patron's movement or weigh them down in the pool. Fabric such as nylon, polyester, Lycra or thin cotton are acceptable.
Clothing also must not be so loose that it could cause entanglement, entrapment or strangulation in pool equipment.
The parks have allowed T-shirts and other torso coverings in the pools for years, as long as patrons wear swimsuits as well.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality prohibits wearing street clothes in public pools but left it up to local communities to define what street clothes are, Tetens said.
Not even Dearborn, noted for having one of the largest Muslim populations in the country, has a written policy to address the matter at its nine pool facilities.
"We treat everyone the same way and there's no exception,'' said Eric Peterson, deputy director of recreation for the city of Dearborn. Peterson said the city falls back on the DEQ regulations and strictly prohibits head garments and any clothing other than lined swimsuits in the water due to public health concerns.
"It may seem like we're being hard-nosed, but we have to be consistent.''
Crafting a policy that allowed observant people of multiple religions to swim in public while wearing clothes is the first of a three-pronged approach to the issue, said County Commissioner Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, who also sits on the Parks Commission.
Park staff will also receive religious sensitivity training to learn about the different faiths practiced by patrons so they are better prepared to handle future situations, Smith said.
Commissioners also felt it was important to offer alternatives and, in addition to the swimsuits already on sale at the facilities, the county will offer inexpensive long nylon pants and long-sleeved shirts that meet safety regulations and respect religious requirements.
"This way we won't have to limit access to the pool,'' Smith said. "We're a country built on tolerance and we have an obligation.''
Walid said that upon approval in Washtenaw County, CAIR may present similar proposals to state legislators.
"We were just as surprised to learn there hasn't been any pool policies before this and we'd like to see if it's possible to implement a law in Michigan that accommodates religion in public pools,'' he said.
Art Aisner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (734) 994-6823.