Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Good points in recent LA Times editorial regarding "foot baths", but...

On August 18th, the LA Times had a very interesting editorial regarding the on-going controversy of "foot baths" at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Again, this issue is about hygiene and safety concerns as it directly effects the student population at U of M-Dearborn.

Below are some excerpts of the editorial with my comments.


University toes the line
The University of Michigan may have stepped over the line in constructing footbaths for Muslim students.
August 18, 2007

It doesn't involve a creche or a menorah. It has nothing to do with the phrase "under God." It's a simple plan to install foot baths in a couple of bathrooms on a college campus -- but it has sparked a blogosphere frenzy over church and state.

At the University of Michigan at Dearborn, one in 10 students is Muslim. Those who pray five times a day wash their feet as part of wudu, or ablution before prayer. After reports of puddles on bathroom floors and sinks separating from walls -- and after a student fell while washing her feet in a sink at another school -- the university sensibly decided to install some foot baths. Precedent was on its side: Eastern Michigan University at Ypsilanti had installed foot baths without a hitch.

The university at Dearborn was right to approach the puddles as a health and safety issue, not a religious one. Foot baths don't promote Islam over other faiths...

But the university's decision seemed more culturally paranoid than culturally aware. It's not inappropriate to ask students to take responsibility for the hazards they may generate. Campus officials could have posted notices asking those using the sinks in unconventional ways to clean up afterward...

Excellent point! Muslims should clean up after themselves when splashing water on the sink areas and/or floor. The overiding concern, however, is of the possibility that people will get injured because of the practice of full ablution using sinks.

Islam is very flexible, and it wouldn't have hurt for university officials to discuss these problems with Muslim students beforehand. In many Islamic traditions, it's permissible in wudu to wipe a damp hand over besocked feet. In fact, all Muslims are encouraged not to splash or waste water. Just holding to that basic recommendation could have helped solve Dearborn's puddle problems for -- let's do the math here -- zero dollars...

The key phrase is "in many Islamic traditions." The author is stating that according to varying schools of jurisprudence in Islam, wiping over socks is not sufficient. I wipe over my socks; others do not. Thus, the author negates his/her own implied statement that Muslims should just wipe over their socks, which would negate the splashing of water. The author is correct, however, in stating that Islam does not promote the usage of excess amounts of water. Image Muslims 1,400 years ago in the Arabian desert using excess water to wash their feet. It didn't take place.

No comments:

Blog Archive