Friday, October 5, 2007

Interesting exchange with Lawrence Auster

(Note: See Auster's follow-up entry on Muslim foot-washing here)

What does it mean that "by definition Muslims can't assimilate?"

In an email conversation between Lawrence Auster and I (which started out on a whole 'nother topic), I mentioned Auster's blog entry from today wherein he asserts emphatically (and rightly so in my opinion) that Muslims cannot assimilate in America.

In my mention of the entry, I ask Mr. Auster the following question...

TM writes:

Great article, by the way, on Muslim assimilation. Your friend is absolutely right. And please excuse the apparent contradiction in terms, but I've thought a lot on the subject of the "contrasting similarities" between Islam and Christianity, wherein lies the incompatability of the two belief systems and the reason for which there ain't enough room for the both of 'em in America. Have you ever thought of it in terms like that? Or in your opinion am I just totally off base here?

LA replies:

Sure, that's true in many ways, from theological beliefs on down. And those arguments need to be made. But I think more basic to the question of assimilability is things like this foot washing business. No one has thought about this before. No one on our side, including me, had thought about what Muslims actually do as part of their daily routine. Maybe we figured they prayed or whatever in private. But now we suddenly realize that in institutions throughout America they are doing their Islamic thing in shared public spaces, and expecting everyone else to adjust. These issues never came up when we began letting Muslims immigrate; we never asked ourselves what their customs are and do we want these customs in America. The other day I stepped through the actual steps of both the washing and the prayer, as described at a Muslim website. It's quite a complex procedure, for example, each foot must be washed three times, whatever that means. The person must "clean" his ears with his index finger and "clean" behind the ears with his thumb. The person must sniff water into his nostils and blow it out. To think of people doing this in workplace restrooms or college dorm restrooms several times a day is simply appalling. Yet, as I've said, we've never heard about this before.

This is where the rubber meets the road in the assimilation question. No honest person can say that such customs are conformable with America and with any Western society. The Dennis Pragers and Norman Podhoretzes of the world, who want us to wage war on "Islamofascists" abroad while we continue welcoming Muslims into America, cannot honestly maintain that Muslim footbaths belong in the shared public spaces of America.

So, this kind of issue may be simpler for people to understand and have a more direct impact on the debate than theological and moral questions.

But more information is needed. Basic journalistic legwork is needed, to find out how widespread these practices are. Are Muslims in public schools, universities, businesses, doing all this washing every day? Do they do all the prescribed steps (which are very complicated), or just a shortened version of them? How do they dry their feet? How much water is left on the floor? It seems any bathroom where this is happening is going to be mess. And how do their non-Muslim fellow students and fellow employees respond to all this? How come we haven't heard anything about it before the last month when the news came out about the new foot baths at the University of Michigan in Dearborn?

End of initial post.


(I'll have some thoughts to add to this later. Thanks to Mr. Auster for answering my question, and for honoring my request to post the exchange here.)