Opinion: "Wrong place, wrong time to be Muslim"

April 30, 2006

Source: The Mercury News


On April 30, 2006 The Mercury News ran an opinion piece by columnist Scott Herhold, "At the Cisco Way light-rail station, Tasman Drive is a broad six-lane avenue that bisects the tastefully designed cookie-cutter campus of San Jose's tech giant.

When President Bush came to visit a week ago last Friday -- April 21 -- it was the scene of a face-off that underscores America's cultural divide and its preoccupation with security.

As always, there are two versions of the story: One version comes from a 24-year-old San Jose State University student, Sulaiman Hyatt, a Bay Area native and Muslim.

Hyatt said he and a group of Muslim friends had been attending the Bush protest in a bullpen on the north side of Tasman when the time came for mid-afternoon prayer.

Waiting for a trolley to pass, they crossed to the south side of the closed-off street. Then, after walking 15 or 20 yards east, eight of them knelt in the bicycle lane to pray, spilling into the outer eastbound lane with heads bowed... 'We were pretty much contained in the bike lane,' Hyatt told me. 'It was clear that the roads were closed off. Cisco Way had barricades on it.'

When the group was done praying, the police approached. 'The first words from a female officer were, "You are detained, and you will now be cited,"' Hyatt recalled. 'I responded, "What's the citation for?" Her response was "blocking traffic"'... But a couple elements of the police version bother me. First, if keeping the street clear was an absolute priority, the cops might have warned the worshipers right at the start... Second, the citation was for crossing against the red signal, not for blocking traffic... I was there that day. And I crossed against the red light, too. But then I'm a relatively inoffensive middle-aged white guy. You wonder whether the real offense of the Muslims wasn't praying in the street so much as it was declining to play by the cops' expectations."