Is Politically Correct National Security Realistic?

July 10, 2002

by Mary Mostert, Analyst - Banner of Liberty

The Orlando Sentinel reports from Florida that a Muslim woman from Winter Park, in a “showdown between the American Civil Liberties Union and the state’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in the case of Sultaana Freeman” is at an impasse. Freeman is not entitled to a driver’s license if she refuses to have her photograph taken without a niqab which covers her entire face except for her eyes. Freeman, on the other hand, claims her right to religious freedom is being infringed.

The State of Florida argues that driving is a privilege, not a right, and law-enforcement concerns after September 11 should override Freeman’s claim of “constitutional rights” based on her new religion. She used to be a Christian.

Her lawyer, Howard Marks, backed, naturally, by Florida’s American Civil Liberties Union, claims that “her religious freedom, freedom of speech, equal protection, right to privacy and due process were violated by the state’s cancellation of her license in December” because she refused to have a picture of her face on her driver’s license, as is required of all other Floridians, regardless of their religion.

What makes this story especially facinating, at least to me, are the now mandated identification requirements since 9-11 under the recently passed Patriot Act, which call for a photo identification before boarding an airplane. Does Freeman expect to forego all air travel in the future? Certainly no reasonable person can expect to be exempted from security checks at airports these days.

On one hand we have some politically correct but totally useless security measures taking place - such as the harrassment of my daughter’s nearly blind, 89-year old mother-in-law at the Fort Lauderdale, Florida airport in January while trying to get back to New Jersey after a family cruise.

Melba, with her cane in one hand and leaning on her 22-year old grandson with the other, was ordered to surrender her cane, let go of her grandson (who was then taken away to be carefully searched for weapons) and then, without sitting down, to take off her shoes. Without protest, Melba did what she was told, only to fall over when taking off her shoes, hitting her head on some sharp object and passing out.

The security guards didn’t even move to assist her, and her family members were held up by other security guards and couldn’t get to her immediately - so, she just lay on the floor, dazed for several minutes. She ended up in the Hospital in Fort Lauderdale for a week, instead of being home.

Now, I ask you, is there more of a security threat from a nearly blind 89-year old Christian who is willingly cooperating with absurd “search” rules or a 34-year old former Pentecostal from the Midwest who converted to Islam five years ago with her husband like Sultaana Freeman? What if her husband is a terrorist who decided to put on a nijab and uses his wife’s ID to board an airplane?

After all, how many 89-year old American women with cataracts have hi-jacked airplanes in recent years, compared with 30-year old plus Muslims?

There are several possible solutions to this problem that come to mind. One that immediately comes to me, of course, is to follow the rest of the Muslim religious requirements, such as those in Saudi Arabia, which forbid women, both Muslim and non-Muslim women, from driving at all. They must be driven by a male. That would eliminate the photograph-on-the-driver’s-license discussion.

The other possible solution was recommended by Hussam Al-Abed, a banker in Amman, Jordan. He was asked by to suggest ways to resolve the identification problem for Muslim women bank customers who did not want to uncover their face in the presence of men. Hussam responded that, in 1999, the veil was used by men disguised as females to commit an armed robbery at a bank, apparently in Jordan.

As a banker, however, he was firmly behind identifying customers: “The documents that are presented by the veiled female customer should be verified by comparing the photo on the ID with the lady that is standing in front of the teller asking for the bank service, just as you would normally do with any new customer,” he said, and made the following suggestion: “It is a wise step for the CSR or Teller to say to the customer something such as this example: ‘Ma’am, ... as we are your trusted Bank and it is our duty and obligation to protect you and your money at our bank, we need to verify your identification and match your photo with you personally. One of our female staff members will handle this process. She will escort you to a private office and the process will take just a few moments. Thank you.’”

Such a system takes a bit of time, and a real photograph, without the veil or niqab. And, it also takes more money, understanding, patience and common sense, which, it appears to me, are all in short supply these days.

However, if we abandoned the politically correct security system, that wasted so much time and money and caused so much physical damage with Melba at the Fort Lauderdale Airport, and used that money and time on really trying to identify possible terrorists, as suggested by Hussam Al-Abed, we would have less terrorism and probably fewer lawsuits.


Mary Mostert was writing professionally on political issues as a teen-ager in Memphis, Tennessee in the 1940s. In the 1960s, she wrote a weekly column for the Rochester Times Union, a Gannett paper and was one of 52 American women who attended the 17 Nation Disarmament Conference in Geneva, Switzerland to ban testing of nuclear bombs in the atmosphere. She was a licensed building contractor for 29 years, as she raised her six children. She served an 18 month mission as Public Affairs Director for the Africa Area for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1990-91. In the 1990s she wrote a book, Coming Home, Families Can Stop the Unraveling of America, edited the Reagan Monthly Monitor and talk show host Michael Reagan’s Information Interchange for seven years. She now operates the website, Banner of Liberty.

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