Religious Persecution in Public Places

In the short story, My Grandmother Washer Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears, a daughter tells us about her mother washing her feet at Sears. Her grandmother does this because, “she has to pray in the store or miss the mandatory prayer time for Muslims”(Kahe, 1). As one may guess, people do not typically consider cleaning one’s feet in a public bathroom. The daughter states, “Respectable Sears matrons shake their heads and frown as they notice what my grandmother is doing”(Kate, 1).  Should people be allowed to clean their feet in a public place?

Despite some people thinking that this is unsanitary, I believe that people should be able to clean their feet in public places for religious purposes. Religious rituals are part of a person’s culture and a person should not be asked to break the their religious traditions because they want to shop like the rest of society. When the grandmother is receiving rude looks from strangers the look on her face says, “I have washed my feet over Iznik tile in Istanbul with water from the world’s ancient irrigation systems”(Kahe, 1). When reading this quote the reader observes how the grandmother has no problem washing her feet in the problem, even though she has performed this ritual in much more respected places. In conclusion, people should be allowed to clean their feet in public bathrooms to preserve their cultural identities.


5 thoughts on “Religious Persecution in Public Places

  1. I agree with the points made in this post. Since America was founded, one of the core beliefs has been the freedom of religion, as listed in the 1st amendment. As it turns out, even early American settlers were escaping religious prosecution in Europe when they arrived in the new world. I liked the fact that you referenced “cultural identities”, rather than using “culture” which I think is a broader concept. I think it is interesting how the author compares the two cultures, presenting the different ideas between Muslim and American culture. The narrator states, “Respectable Sears matrons shake their heads and frown as they notice what my grandmother is doing, an affront to American porcelain, a contamination of American Standards by something foreign and unhygienic requiring civic action and possible use of disinfectant spray” (Kahf). Clearly, Kahf is merely presenting a different cultural practice, which she thinks should be tolerated, as do I. By using this situation to point out possible imperfections in our society, the narrator makes us recognize the differences between the two cultures, so in the future we may be more understanding of these different ideals.

    On the other hand, I do think there are some flaws in the authors message. At the beginning of the poem, Kahf argues that Americans should be more accepting towards Muslim culture. That is fine, but she continues on to say, “My grandmother knows one culture- the right one” (Kahf). This seems like a conflicting statement from the one she just made. She wants others to be more accepting of her foreign culture, yet she won’t respect their culture. Aside from this, I believe that Kahf is presenting an important message: we as a modern society should respect and recognize the views/practices of an unfamiliar culture.

  2. Michael, I agree with you that people should not be judged for their religious beliefs. I admire how you tentatively touch on the fact that people shouldn’t have to suppress their religious traditions because of the non-approval of societal norms. Religion is all about being true to who you are and having something you can turn to that brings happiness and comfort. If you’re comfortable and dedicated to your traditions, why should you stop because of the judgment and others? Why have temporary people dictate how you experience your life? I also like how you mention the quote, “Respectable Sears matrons shake their heads and frown as they notice what my grandmother is doing”(Kahf, 1), because it’s an oxymoron. The “respectable” matrons are staring and judging this woman who’s following her special tradition. This touches on the conflict of beliefs, later symbolized as the granddaughter says, “I can see a clash of civilization brewing in the Sears bathroom”(Kahf,2). Albert Camus once said, “People hasten to judge in order not to be judged themselves”. The judgment of other is habitually made in order to comfort oneself; to make it seem that they’re the “normal” ones. Our society is developed on this notion. We’re hasty to criticize others who dare to be different. We possess a singular point of view and anything else that veers off our track is deemed as “strange”, “absurd” and or “bizarre”. As Mr.Carpent said, we live in America, a state known for its extraordinary freedom and no tolerance for the persecution of religion. America is a country full of countless religious beliefs and we encounter a vast number of people with unique customs every day. Rather looking at her strangely, they should praise her for being so dedicated to her beliefs. For her to actually take the time and effort to set her feet in the sink and cleanse them deserves kudos. It obviously wasn’t easy for the grandmother as the story states, “She does it with great poise, balancing herself with one plump matronly arm against the automated hot air dryer, after having removed her support knee highs”(Kahf,1).

    Even though I mutually agree people should not judge others for their religious beliefs or actions, I do side on the observers in a way. Cleansing one’s feet in the sink can be seen as odd, especially if the context is unknown. Also, maybe the grandma had it coming for her? Mathew (7:1-5) says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”.The grandmother can be seen as judgmental as well. She says. “If you Americans knew anything about civilization and cleanliness, you’d maker wider wash bins”(Kahf,2). The granddaughter also goes on to say how her grandmother, “knows one culture, the right one”(Kahf,2). So what’s the core theme of this story? Is it don’t judge others religion or karma?

  3. Hi Michael,
    I agree with your point that people should be allowed to clean their feet in a public place. Her feet condition is appropriate: “…when she lifts her well-groomed foot and puts it over the edge…” (Mohja Kahf, page 2), which reduced the level that the sanitary utilities in the bathroom could be contaminated. Also, as the grandmother did, a cultural ritual, she acted within her appropriate rules: “she does it with great poise…after having removed her support knee-highs and laid them aside, folded in thirds…” (Mohja Kahf, page 1) She followed the basic order in a public area with politeness. Based on the two points, she has already satisfied the requirement not bothering the public restroom’s cleanness. Adding the factor of religious views, it could be making less sense for the matrons of the Middle West to forbid the action of the grandmother, which could be a showing of religious affront with her only saying “‘You can’t do that’” (Mohja Kahf, page 2). As you have mentioned, the grandmother is allowed to do her cleaning action at the sacred and religious sites. There is no reason that the restroom of Sears has a special point which does not allow the religious action to take place. Admittedly, even the grandmother’s cleaning creates more task for the cleaner, it can be allowed that the cleaner to do more thorough cleaning in the once work if a similar scene like the poem mentioned happens in reality.

    Also, it is known to all that the long-lasting inequality, rooted from the conflicts between religious viewpoints, has been existent in most of the countries. So I was wondering that whether there can be another question implied by the poem: should people be allowed to show their religious viewpoints in the public area? There can be a natural law that concepts of cultural habits that acts out in a public area and the rule of keeping the public area’s sanitary cleanness can be individual to each other. Besides, if we take the angle by focusing on the different religious ideas, it can be reasonable that people from different cultural zones have different religious beliefs and recognition, therefore, it could not be a problem if people just hold their ideas inside their mind, which creates diversity and marvelous knowledge. However, if people with different cultural views own the right, following by utilizing the cultural difference as a weapon to attack the “orthodox” and lower level people, the problem of prejudice and persecution will emerge, since the concepts of religion and politics are mixed to become ambiguous when the conflicts come out in the public area. Adding the factor of inequality, the problem becomes serious that even a minority’s religious viewpoint could be eliminated in front of a majority’s one. What is reasonable is that politics should and must maintain at any moment, and the weapon that different sides of political parties use to create conflicts in the world can be reasonable, but the cultural and religious rights of individual, especially the people in weak status, should be defended, since the rights’ existence and the place where the rights are expressed are not related to the political viewpoints. Thus, people should be allowed to express their religious thoughts in the public area, no matter what form they take.

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