Two Tennessee Republican state legislators panicked this week after they mistook a new mop sink in the congressional bathroom for a place designated for Muslims to wash their feet. They approached Tennessee’s Legislative Administration Director Connie Ridley, who assured them that the new installation was, indeed, a mop sink.
Bill Ketron and Judd Matheney just happen to be the main sponsors of a 2011 bill that would have made it a felony to follow Shari’a law. Which doesn’t sound that horrible, until you realize that this bill could literally have made it a felony for a Muslim to pray. Thankfully, it didn’t pass in its original form, although a watered down version did pass.
Anyway, this incident pretty much sums up everything stupid, horrible, and racist about Islamophobia. First, Ridley and Matheney were stupid enough to think that Tennessee would actually try to create accommodations for praying Muslims. Secondly, they were made angry enough by the presence of a simple accommodation that would allow a person of another faith to pray more easily (ie. not have to wash their feet in a sink) to actually bring it up to the building administrator.
Because even if this mop sink was foot-washer for Muslims to perform wudu, it wouldn’t hurt anyone. A foot-washer is not a theological statement, like putting the ten commandments in a public school building. It’s simply a small accommodation. But in the mindset of the Islamophobe, any accommodation to a minority is a type of surrender.