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Jewish World Review May 30, 2003 / 28 Iyar, 5763

Diana West

Diana West
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Consumer Reports

Facing reality at the DMV | The Associated Press reports that experts in Islamic law are being summoned to testify at the trial of Sultanna Freeman, a 35-year-old Muslim woman whose religious rights, she claims, have been violated by the state of Florida. How? Sunshine State officials say Freeman must allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to photograph her whole face -- not just a veil-shrouded slit around her eyes -- if she wants a state driver's license. She maintains that submitting to the DMV mugshot-maker would be "disobeying my L-rd" because she would briefly -- just the pop of a flash bulb -- have to drop the hijab (a head- and face-masking veil).

Let's hope the experts have easy access to the copy of the Koran that has been entered into trial evidence, because finding a chapter on "my L-rd" and "my driver's license" is going to take some doing. Meanwhile, the state plods on, dusting off arguments grounded so deeply in common sense they haven't before seen the light of day.

"It's the primary method of identification in Florida and the nation," explained state Assistant Attorney General Jason Vail to the Associated Press, rather patiently referring to the snapshots that appear on driver's licenses. "I don't think there can be any doubt there is a public safety interest."

While there may indeed be a case against DMVs everywhere for foisting consistently gruesome I.D. photos of the public on the public (mental cruelty? identity theft?), turning a full-face snapshot into a full-frontal clash between East and West takes multiculturalism to a new extreme. My hunch is Freeman's case won't fly -- and it certainly shouldn't drive.

Which, of course, is an option for Freeman, one already, if non-freely, exercised by her Muslim sisters in Saudi Arabia, where the hijab is mandatory and female drivers are against the law. Sultanna, however, being a good American, prefers to litigate. "This is about religious liberty," said her lawyer Howard Marks, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, opening proceedings in Freeman's nonjury lawsuit against the state. "This is about whether this country is going to have religious diversity. Allowing the state to chip away at religious liberties is not a path we want to go down."


The nuts and bolts of this case have nothing to do with Freeman's right to worship, freely or diversely, and everything to do with her responsibility to drive lawfully. On the highway, she is a driver first, not a Muslim. As such, she is subject to the same rules and regulations that govern every other driver -- Catholic, Jew or Jesse James. As a licensing body, the state is hardly chipping away at religious liberties; on the contrary, Freeman's religion-based plaint may be seen as an attempt to chip away at the legal tradition of conducting state affairs without regard to religion.

So what to do? Both sides have Islamic experts on the case. Maybe one of them will pull a fatwa out of a hijab and rule that Muslim women may remain in good religious standing, with or without the veil.

Oddly enough, just such a fatwa, sort of, came down this week from Sheik Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, world renowned Islamic "moderate," scholar, and Al Jazeera tele-imam. (The late Daniel Pearl flagged Mr. Qaradawi early on as a centrist; just this past spring the Christian Science Monitor identified him as a "moderate Egyptian cleric," and, more significant, Noah Feldman, the chief U.S. adviser on the Iraqi constitution, has labeled him an "Islamic democrat.") Such positive PR stems from the cleric's condemnation of the Sept. 11 attacks; nothing subsequently -- not his sanctions of suicide "operations"; his pronouncement that shaking hands with Israeli government official Shimon Peres requires washing hands seven times (once with dirt); or his rulings against the war in Iraq -- has altered this reputation.

Qaradawi's latest religious ruling, reported by the Jerusalem Post, not only permits women to venture out alone in public without wearing a hijab, but also to do so without their husband's permission. This sounds downright liberating, not just for Freeman, but for all Muslim women (not to mention the Florida DMV). But there's a catch: The free dress fatwa is restricted to the Muslim woman who is about to blow herself up "for the cause of Allah" in a suicide bombing -- an act of mass murder Sheik Qaradawi calls "one of the most praised acts of worship."

Suffice it to say that if this is the face of moderation unveiled, Sultanna Freeman will just have to do without a driver's license.

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JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

05/27/03: Lost in The Matrix
05/19/03: A dubious diversity
05/09/03: Recalling the man who 'Banned in Boston'
05/02/03: Fellowships and flagellation
04/28/03: What Americans have to learn about cultural education
04/21/03: In Iraq, is democracy is in the eye of the beholder?
04/14/03: The greatest generation gap
03/31/03: The great gap between the West and the Middle East
03/21/03: They just wouldn't shut up!
03/10/03: Sorry apologies for speaking the truth
03/03/03: The Eurabian alliance
02/24/03: Searching for good news
02/18/03: Love and honor -- lost, found and murdered
02/03/03: A calm that causes concern
01/27/03: Playing politics with a T-shirt mentality
01/21/03: When understanding the East means losing the West
01/13/03: Is a war on Jews a war on democracy?
01/06/03: Bush must take a stand on affirmative action
12/30/02: Questions for reflection on 2002
12/16/02: The pre-emptive war goes Hollywood
12/09/02: Protest Augusta? Why not Sudan?
11/25/02: Something to contemplate this Ramadan
11/08/02: Does Eminem now fit in?
11/04/02: No time for gloating
11/04/02: What's in a name when the name is Muhammad?
10/28/02: Jihad as a First Amendment right
10/21/02: When speaking out isn't allowed
10/14/02: Terrorism in Maryland and abroad
09/30/02: So long urgency, hello indulgence
09/24/02: That one, sturdy, missing word
09/17/02: Fingerprinting, finally
09/09/02: When 'healing' overshadows reality
09/04/02: Tales from the Techno Valley and Forest
08/16/02: Elvis shall rise again
08/14/02: War with Iraq won't harm war on terror
08/06/02: Clinton snaps over Somalia
08/01/02: 9-11 anniversary shouldn't come with apology
07/27/02: An unstable common ground
07/25/02: Hillary fights hard for soft money
07/12/02: Goretheus unbound
07/10/02: Rosie takes a shine to Republicans
07/08/02: Are you still shocked, Sami?
07/02/02: Can Britney win hearts of the Middle East?
06/28/02: A war on terror or Islamists?
06/25/02: Blame the murderer, and the messenger
06/21/02: Up front and personal with Atta
06/18/02: Terrorism at the United Nations
06/11/02: Who's policing the INS?
06/07/02: Spa Gitmo
06/04/02: Can rock gods save the queen?
05/31/02: Hillary's war
05/29/02: Have you forgotten we're at war?
05/24/02: An antiquated luxury of the past
05/21/02: From terrorists to tourists
05/19/02: Hate U.
05/07/02: Western self-loathing numbs us to violence
05/03/02: Pioneering television
05/01/02: Western self-loathing numbs us to violence
04/29/02: It's the misconduct, stupid
04/24/02: Medal of diss-honor
04/17/02: Holy sanctuary or terrorist shield?
04/12/02: Egyptian clerics solicit martyrs for murder
04/09/02: Defining terrorism down
04/05/02: The Wilder life
04/02/02: Acting, equality and the Academy
03/31/02: Speeding to conclusions
03/25/02: Hard to remove blood (libel) stains
03/21/02: The tale of Nixon's tapes --- again
03/19/02: The Big Lie lives on
03/15/02: The tunnel vision of '9/11'
03/13/02: The American Auschwitz?
03/08/02: Hating the indoctrination of hate
03/05/02: Clinton and Enron: Old friends
03/01/02: Pickering doesn't polarize, the process does
02/26/02: Destiny's prefabricated child
02/22/02: The White House heist
02/20/02: Making the grade
02/11/02: Studying student visas
02/06/02: Understanding arrogance
02/04/02: The professor's war
01/29/02: Disconnected dialogue
01/23/02: Anti-Indiscrimination
01/18/02: How much is enough?
01/15/02: Oh brothers, where art thou?
01/10/02: Air on the side of caution
01/04/02: Blacks seeing red at Harvard
01/02/02: Clinton's campaign continues
12/26/01: A tale of two exhibitions
12/24/01: Taliban Idyll
12/19/01: Right is right
12/17/01: Hillary strikes out
12/13/01: Lost files, lost presidency
12/10/01: Revolutionaries never grow up
12/05/01: Immigration reform talk is not just for 'haters' anymore
12/03/01: A new symbol of justice
11/30/01: Beyond morality
11/26/01: Can't keep a good man down
11/20/01: Tough talk at the United Nations
11/19/01: Hollywood's other battle
11/14/01: What's the matter with Sara Jane?
11/09/01: A beef with bin Laden's Beef Noodles
11/07/01: Facing up to the FBI's past mistakes
11/02/01: A school that teaches patriots to shutup
10/30/01: The gap between Islam and peace
10/26/01: The ties that bind (and gag)
10/24/01: This war is more than Afghanistan
10/22/01: The fatuous fatwa
10/19/01: Left out
10/16/01: Whose definition of terrorism?
10/11/01: Post-stress disorder
10/08/01: How the West has won
10/01/01: Good, bad or ... diplomacy
09/28/01: Drawing a line in stone
09/21/01: Prejudice or prudence?
09/14/01: When our dead will finally rest in hallowed ground
09/07/01: We want our #$%^&*() audience back!
08/24/01: The transformation from Green Mountain State to Green Activist State is all but complete
08/17/01: Enlightenment at Yale
08/10/01: From oppressors to victims, a metamorphosis
08/03/01: Opening the dormitory door: College romance in the New Century
08/01/01: How-To Hackdom: The dubious art of writing books about writing books
07/20/01: Hemming about Hemmings
07/13/01: Justice has not been served in the Loiuma police brutality case
06/22/01: When PC parades are too 'mainstream'
06/22/01: When "viewpoint discrimination" in our schools was not nearly so gnarly a notion
06/15/01: Lieberman flaunts mantle of perpetual aggrievement
06/07/01: Is graciousness the culprit?
06/01/01: The bright side of the Jeffords defection
05/29/01: Campus liberals should be more careful
05/18/01: 'Honest Bill' Clinton and other Ratheresian Logic
05/11/01: Dodging balls, Bugs, and 'brilliance'
05/04/01: Foot in mouth disease and little lost Tories
04/20/01:The last classic Clinton cover-up
04/20/01: D-Day, Schmee-Day
04/06/01: For heaven's sake, a little decency!
03/30/01: The sweet sound of slamming doors and clucking feminists
03/23/01: America's magazines and the 'ick-factor'
03/09/01: Felony neglect
03/02/01: Who's sorry now?
02/23/01: 'Ecumenical niceness' and other latter-day American gifts to the world
02/16/01: Elton and Eminem: Royal dirge-icist meets violent fantasist
02/12/01: If only ...

© 2001, Diana West