Is it me, or has Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten used her forum at the paper to vent fear of Muslim Americans in our communities?
From the “flying imams” fiasco at the airport, to the cabdrivers facing off with the Metropolitan Airports Commission about transporting alcohol, to the current flurry of articles about plumbing adjustments to accommodate foot-washing at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Kersten’s interest strikes me as paranoia, or even out-and-out phobia.
In a culture like the United States, it seems, we have very few requirements for cleanliness beyond ‘wash your hands.’ Maybe that is why this topic appears to some a mystery.
Whatever her motive, Kersten is consistent in her attempts to agitate the reader about Muslims living in the United States and their perceived “threat” to Western civilization. Her zealous coverage of issues of the Muslim community is both puzzling and frightening.
The foot-washing topic has gone from a local concern at a community college to a national story. Will the shock jocks be ranting about it next? Shouldn’t Kersten give more attention to students who bring guns or drugs to schools than to those who want to wash their feet and stay clean?
Kersten seems intent on stirring up negative public opinion on relatively minor topics in her apparent crusade to save American culture from the Muslims. If this is “just the beginning,” as she warned of the foot-washing threat, what else might Muslims bring to campus? Lord forbid, Arabic books?
Let’s consider this assault on Western values and North American culture by Muslim personal hygiene. To understand the topic, Kersten really needs to understand the importance of the washing rituals, which may have something to do with praying (in Arabic this is called wudu) or not. Some Muslims may complain about a lot of issues, but I do not think they complain nearly enough about their daily torture at public bathrooms, where you are provided condoms as an incentive for casual clean sex but are severely under-equipped for a thorough washing.
Besides lacking a low-level washing area with a drain for washing feet, there is also no bidet-like system for cleaning after using the toilet. Water is the essential element for a thorough cleaning — toilet paper will not suffice.
You can say all you want about Muslims, but when it comes to the cultural issues of washing and personal hygiene, we are very meticulous. Without going into detail — we like to keep our private parts private — Muslims usually try to avoid public bathrooms. Muslim students at a college will, however, spend many hours on the campus and have to make do with the facilities available to them. “Being clean is half of religion,” the prophet Mohammed said.
Washing and following cultural rituals of cleaning don’t strike me as threats to North American culture.
To Kersten I would urge: If you are going to trail Muslims wherever they go, at least learn about this community’s customs and values as much as you urge them to understand yours. Believe me, Muslim washing rituals don’t constitute the threat to American culture that your writing does.
Ahmed Tharwat is host of the Arab-American TV show “Belahdan,” which airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on Twin Cities Public Television (Ch. 17).