Sunday, September 18, 2005

Philly Digest, Part One

From the pages of this morning's Inquirer, Sylvester Johnson, the city's Police Commissioner comes out -- as a Muslim.

Most of Johnson's family - his wife and two of his three sons - are not Muslim. Some question how Muslim the police chief is himself.

"He's someone who says he's a Muslim. There's a difference between a Muslim and a practicing Muslim," said police officer Kenneth Wallace, a Muslim.

Wallace grew his beard beyond the department's quarter-inch regulation length in observance of Islam and was ordered home until he trimmed it. Following the example of the Prophet Muhammad, many Muslim men wear beards, and some scholars say it is a religious obligation.

Wallace is now in a standoff with the department, waiting to be told if he is fired. Johnson is not backing him, just as he did not support a female officer who wants to wear the hijab, the traditional Islamic head scarf, with her uniform.

"You don't wear religion on your face," the commissioner said. "You wear it in your heart and mind."

The stance has not won him friends among some Muslim leaders.

"He seems determined to show he's not going to favor Muslims," said Isa Abdul Mateen, imam at the Masjid al-Quran in North Philadelphia.... "It's good that he's not totally turning his back on the Muslim community, just partially."

Kudos to the Commish. May Allah, the merciful and compassionate, grant him every blessing.



Blogger Jeff said...

Gee, I dunno. In a secular state, I think I'd rather have broad respect for people's traditional religious garb and barbering, as well as other traditions. I can see the point of not allowing hijab on drivers' licenses, but I'm not sure about beard length, etc. Why not change the rules?

In France, the law against wearing any religious identifiers in school--e.g., hijab or crucifixes--was broadly opposed by Catholics, Muslims and others. I'm afraid they have my sympathy.

18/9/05 15:37  

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