Freedom Folks

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dhimmitude, Chicago Style

Source: Chicago Tribune

David Huffman told police it was just a prank gone wrong: On April 22, at a McDonald's in Tinley Park, he tapped a Muslim woman on the head, nearly pulling off her headscarf.

The woman, a young mother with her children, didn't see it as harmless. She was scared and embarrassed; her faith had been attacked. She told police, and they called it battery.
A tap on the head = faith being attacked? The charge of battery instinctively didn't sit well with me, either, but since the definition of the word includes "touching in an offensive manner," I guess I'll have to let it slide. That, as always, is left up to the "victim."

But in a surprising twist, a Cook County circuit judge did not fine or jail Huffman, who pleaded guilty. He was instead ordered to undergo sensitivity training at the downtown Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights organization.
And that's where I get completely lost. The government ordering someone to learn about a religion as punishment for tapping someone on the head?

"I understood immediately after I did it. But even after I apologized, she was still so angry," he said. "I didn't understand that."

Explaining that to him would be the responsibility of Veronica Zapata, the organization's sensitivity training coordinator. That day, she led Huffman around the corner to the Downtown Islamic Center on South State Street, where she showed him the empty mosque.


Luqman Rashad, the center's energetic director, led prayers that evening on the basketball court, where Huffman watched intently, taking off his baseball hat as if the national anthem had begun.

Rashad filled his sermon with several topics, telling the 30 or so boys that one must always struggle to do right. And he said Muslim women have it hard in America because the hijab, or head scarf, alerts others to their religion.


By the beginning of October, after other activities around town, Huffman was back at the Council on American-Islamic Relations' office, where he worked hard to complete a PowerPoint presentation he was required to give to the organization's volunteers at the end of his 40 hours.
OK, first let's acknowledge that it's never OK to tap a stranger on the head, hijab or no. Nor is it OK to force someone to, in essence, study any religion. As always, the litmus test is always whether it can, would, and does happen across the board.

Work with me here. Can you picture a teenager tapping the cross dangling around my neck, being charged with battery, and sentenced to spend 40 hours at Moody Bible Institute and Moody Church learning about Christianity, mingling with Christians, and attending an Easter service?

Yeah. Didn't think so.

For the first time since his initial day at the council, Huffman again visited the Downtown Islamic Center, walking with two young Muslim men from the office, who did not talk to him the whole way there. There was a crowd at the mosque this time, since it was during Ramadan, which ended Sunday, according to the Islamic Society of North America.

Once inside, one of the men told Huffman he could wait in the hallway, which Huffman did, returning to stare at the tiles listing the names of God in Islam: The All Forgiving. The Hidden. The Majestic.

As the imam preached peace and togetherness, Huffman was feet away but not listening, in a different world altogether. The faithful packed the mosque that day; Huffman checked text messages.
Now that's what I call dhimmitude. Court-ordered dhimmitude. And it's not welcome in my country.

If I wanted to live in a place where dhimmitude is accepted, encouraged and embraced, I'd move to Europe.

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