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Look no further than the Corvallis, Ore., mosque arson or the threat of Koran burnings in Gainesville, Fla., and it is clear that Islamaphobia is gaining ground in the United States, challenging our highest ideals of freedom and equality.

Now, in Boulder, University of Colorado student Maria Hardman asserts that she, too, is a victim of this dangerous proliferation (Student Voice: “I am a Muslim and I love this country,” Dec. 7). But does her refusal to remove her hijab in a police booking photo and subsequent rebuke constitute a violation of her religious rights?

The short answer is no.

Regulation for the Boulder County Jail stipulates that all headwear, religious or otherwise, is to be removed for booking photos. Hardman claims that this is a violation of her First Amendment rights.

Your turn



The Colorado Daily routinely prints opinion pieces, such as this one, submitted by University of Colorado students. Submit yours — maximum of 600 words — to editor@coloradodaily.com.

But the law provides for reasonable accommodation to uphold both the ideals of the First Amendment while facilitating the practicalities of law enforcement.

In Hardman’s case, reasonable accommodation manifested itself in that only female officers were present for the photo. To go beyond reasonable accommodation is to open the door for religious exceptionalism, which, in turn, impinges on the equality of Americans.

In this case, Boulder law enforcement upheld both their legal duties and the spirit of the Constitution.

In light of this, Hardman’s conduct regarding the case is troubling.

To claim that she did not know she was drinking alcohol before driving her scooter is preposterous. A 0.19 blood-alcohol level means she passed buzzed, passed tipsy and passed drunk on her way to getting wasted.

By not taking responsibility and attempting to deceive, she is not only mocking the beliefs she claims to profess, but also subverting the legal system. She was lucky to come away from the scooter accident with only a DWAI.

Since the original article, she has appeared to take more responsibility for her actions; a step in the right direction.

Yet she maintains that she has been the victim of religious discrimination and Islamaphobia. In doing so, she is manipulating the important debate of religious freedom.

Remember, her case was handled to both the letter of the law and the spirit of the Constitution. On top of that, invoking claims of Islamaphobia not only cheapens the severity of actual claims, but also casts an undeserved shadow over law enforcement and the community.

All of this to avoid the consequences of decisions she made. Yes, those consequences put Hardman in an uncomfortable situation, but the justice system’s intent is not to coddle.

Instead of sensationalizing her story, Hardman should focus on making steps towards accepting responsibility for her actions and also the consequences.

Aaron Blau is a student at the University of Colorado

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