March 3, 2010
Special footbaths for Muslims in public places?
The whole issue of installing special footbaths for Muslims in public spaces is absurd. When the observant Muslim gets up before dawn for the first (Fajr) prayer, he is obliged to do full wudu (ritual washing for purification) -- if I remember correctly, this means washing the face and a swipe across the hair, the ears, rinsing the nostrils and mouth, washing hands and arms up to the elbow, and the feet (I'm not sure about the order of these washings). Only a very little amount of water need be used (remember than many Muslim countries are very dry and water use is limited).
After that first washing, one need only do a modified form of wudu for the rest of the day -- some form of wudu is performed after anything that renders one impure, such as farting, going to the bathroom, having sex, throwing up, etc. If one has no water available e.g., after using the bathroom, one is to strike one's hands on the "pure earth."
As for footwashing before prayer, the modified form of wudu is to wet one's hands slightly and rub them across one's socks. Thus the need for special footbaths in public places is most likely unnecessary.
All this (admittedly from memory) is from a handbook for new Muslims; Islam in Focus by Hammedan abd Al'Ati. My edition is not the most recent; the book is widely available from Muslim book stores.
I'm not a Muslim, but I live in Israel which has a substantial Muslim minority, and there are many Muslims on the Hebrew University campus where I work. I don't know where Muslim students pray on campus, if at all, since there are many mosques in the surrounding area. Nor do the campus cafeterias serve halal meals (although kosher may be sufficient for most Muslims; kosher and halal are not the same).
Basically, I really resent it that some Muslims in Europe and America are insisting on special respect and special privileges, especially when it isn't necessary according to Muslim norms.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem