Saturday, April 21, 2012

Some people hear “Islam” and want to think the worst – no matter the facts

I stumbled across a pair of stories Friday that really have nothing in common – except they show how some people will get all freaked out at the mere mention of the word “Islam.”
A tarbush; worth extra scrutiny?

Some people just want to have their hang-ups, which is the real problem that confronts our society.

BOTH OF THESE incidents – one at the Statehouse in Springfield, Ill., and the other just across State Line Road in Hammond, Ind. – had the effect of making me feel a funk as we go into this weekend.

In the latter incident, a man who lives in suburban Midlothian is suing the federal government, in particular the Secretary of State’s office, because he couldn’t get a passport (which would confirm his U.S. citizenship when he travels overseas).

His lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for northern Indiana because he made his passport application at a post office in Hammond – where he used to live until he moved across the state line into the south suburbs.

The Times of Northwest Indiana newspaper reports that the man believes the reason his passport application got tangled up in the bureaucratic maze that eventually shot it down was because the photographs of himself that he submitted depicted him wearing a tarbush – a red, brimless cap with a tassel that is considered religious garb by some Middle Eastern men.

THE MAN HIMSELF described the hat in his lawsuit as religious headware, and he wasn’t about to take it off for a photograph.

His lawsuit says he wants financial damages to compensate him for the delay, along with issuance of the passport itself.

Reading about the legal case, I couldn’t help but think this might be more an instance of bureaucratic bungling, rather than religious-motivated bigotry.

For it seems that when the passport application initially was denied, the federal government asked the man to provide additional forms of identification. But he had trouble getting copies of some of the documents that the federal government wanted, and that caused the United States of America to tell the man he would have to start the process all over again.

YES, THAT WOULD be frustrating. I don’t blame the man for being irritated.

And yes, there is a part of me who wonders if the sight of a man wearing a “foreign-like” hat caused him to pay special attention to the passport application.

Considering that the man in question is a U.S. citizen by birth, there should really be no complicating factors in him getting the one official document that confirms his citizenship.

Someone’s religious suspicions should not be enough reason to create a bureaucratic nightmare.

I CAN’T HELP but sense the same sentiment about the Illinois state Senate, which these days is considering whether to confirm various appointments made by Gov. Pat Quinn.

One of those appointments is that of Munir Muhammad. The Chicago resident was chosen by Quinn to serve on the Illinois Human Rights Commission.

Actually, he has been on the commission since 2003 and no one has brought up any complaints about his performance.

But it is Muhammad’s affiliation with the Black Muslims that has some people suspicious – although I suspect that it was that affiliation that originally got him appointed to the state commission in the first place.

SPECIFICALLY, THE COALITION for the Remembrance of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is a group that Muhammad co-founded to pay tribute to the founder of the Nation of Islam (now headed by Louis Farrakhan).

Now I know there are people who don’t agree with the Nation of Islam (and I know some Muslims who insist that the nation really has nothing to do with “Islam”). I don’t exactly agree with them on some issues.
E. MUHAMMAD: Supporting him causes concerns

Then again, I never understood those Pentecostals who believe that snake handling is a part of legitimate religious practices. But so long as no one tries to force their thoughts on me, I really don’t care what they do on their own.

Besides, like I implied earlier, I suspect that Muhammad’s differing perspective was the reason he got picked for the commission that investigates complaints of discrimination, and probably should remain on it so long as Quinn desires his presence there.

DOES ANYONE REALLY think that a commission concerned with discrimination should consist solely of like-minded people who can’t perceive those who are different from themselves?

Does anyone really think that a fez-like hat ought to warrant additional attention?

And where’s the aspirin? These incidents are giving me more of a headache than that White Sox loss from earlier this week – the one that turned a 4-1 victory to a 10-4 defeat in a matter of one inning.


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