Cover Story

Sect apart

"Sect apart" Continued...

Issue: "A mighty fortress is our sect," Oct. 20, 2007

But such charges and convictions against the FLDS president and prophet have not stopped the community from practicing polygamy and isolating its people from contact with outsiders-though some families have now left the towns for church communes elsewhere. FLDS members rarely speak to media, and WORLD's efforts to contact local residents were unsuccessful.

Tyler has considered dropping leaflets from a helicopter into the towns with information about her organization, but she decided against it due to possible charges of littering or retaliation against the pilot.

Instead, she is helping establish a safe house in one of Hildale's old abandoned mansions-a rare refuge for defecting church members, given that local police and government officials are fellow members of the FLDS and have no interest in censuring church leaders. "They're running a theocracy," Tyler told WORLD. "And as long as they have their own city, they can do what they jolly well please."

Public square accommodations

Allowing some concessions to religious minorities does not a jihad make

Throughout the United States, local pockets of dense Muslim populations are pushing for special religious accommodations-and, in some spots, receiving them. The University of Michigan in Dearborn recently sparked controversy when it approved plans to install special footbaths for ritualistic Islamic washing. In San Diego, another Islamic community persuaded officials at Carver Elementary School to grant Muslim students a 15-minute break each afternoon for prayer.

Social and political commentators are often quick to cry foul over such accommodations, warning against a slippery slope to Shariah, the strict religious and legal code required in the Quran. These pundits point out the hidden agendas of many mainstream Islamic advocacy groups, which couch their mission for socio-religious control in terms of civil rights.

Indeed, recent U.S. prosecution against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development has exposed a number of prominent American Muslim charities as front groups for Islamism, the political movement seeking to impose a worldwide caliphate. Groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim American Society (MAS), and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) have all proven to maintain unsavory associations and relationships with terrorist organizations.

But such sinister motives are not shared throughout all Muslim-American communities. In fact, broad Muslim support for agencies like CAIR, MAS, and ISNA is waning in light of the recent revelations. M. Zhudi Jasser, founder and director of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, tells WORLD that most Muslims in America are unaware of the political aims driving many national Islamic groups.

Requests like footbaths or prayer breaks, therefore, do not necessarily come with radical intent. When the Indianapolis International Airport completes its new billion-dollar terminal in the fall of 2008, the floor-level sinks included in the bathrooms will not establish Shariah law, but simply spare the airport's high number of local Muslim cab drivers from awkwardly lifting their feet into sinks meant for hands.

Critics object to the idea of public money funding such an accommodation and argue that special treatment for Islam will trigger similar demands from scores of other religious sects. Of course, the idea of public institutions meeting the particular needs of specific local populations is nothing new. And Christians might welcome an increased acceptance of religious practice in the public square-provided it extends to Christianity.


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