Saturday, May 31, 2003

I have been involved in a number of discussions regarding this case. Eugene Volokh has a few articles that pretty much cover the legal issues and possible scenarios, at least as far as I am concerned. The links are here and here.
Despite the general understanding of "the courts will decide, the legislature with react - that's how our system works" I was still deeply ambivalent about the issue. Moreover, I felt somewhat uneasy about the heat this case is generating. This was especially disturing since this is not a new case but dates from well over a year ago, it is just that it is only going to trial now, nor is it the only one of its kind (a similar one from Midwest). Moreover, tons of religious groups have changed general rules to help them fulfill their religious demands. Amish do not have to post reflective lights on their rigs and there are no meters running in some Orthodox Jewish communities in NYC on Saturdays, while the rest of the city has them turned off on Sunday. I cannot help but feel that part of the "america, love it or leave it" crowd is in on this case because the plaintiff is Muslim, and as a country we are not too hot on some of her co-religionists right now. However, I think that another part, an even bigger one perhaps is that we can understand that a vast majority of Orthodox Jews will not feed quarters into the meter maw on Shabbos. Clearly, however, a vast majority of Muslims in this country have had no issues getting their pictures snapped. The fact that all muslim countries that allow women to drive (our friends and allies in Suadi Arabia are proudly not a part of that crowd) snap their IDs without any problems makes the case all the more confusing. Whatever religious authority Ms. Freeman can appeal to will have to somehow show that all the authorities from Egypt to Iran were wrong - a tough act. If the court finds that having a full-face photo on your driver's license is a required element of public safety then it will rule against her. If the court finds otherwise, Florida legislature can easily change the law to exempt this law to the religious freedoms rights -- as they now do with drugs. Democracy at work!
I would like to think that in the end this case is going to show that if you want to practice a Islam freely you are better off doing it here than in its birthplace. At least if you want to drive to a mosque.


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