Fact-checking: Terry Jones’ worst enemy
By Samer Hijazi | Monday, 02.20.2012, 03:09 AM

DEARBORN — Last week, Qur’an burning Florida Pastor Terry Jones sent out a press release in which he cited examples of the rise of “Shari’a Law” in Dearborn. But when one takes a closer look at the statements Jones is making by doing some fact-checking, they will find that Jones’ claims are either over exaggerated or even completely fabricated depending on the example.
But when one takes a closer look at the statements Jones is making by doing some fact-checking, they will find that Jones’ claims are either over exaggerated or even completely fabricated depending on the example.

Jones, who is boldly running as an independent presidential candidate for the 2012 race, claims in a press release titled "The Rise of Shari’a Law," that Muslim privileges, which are supposedly provided in Dearborn, are unconstitutional.  In particular, the press release targets Fordson High School's football team for re-arranging its schedule during Ramadan to accommodate fasting football players. It also targets the Dearborn Public School District’s Food Service Department for providing Muslim students with alternatives such as halal meat. A section of the press release states:
"Providing a halal menu in Dearborn does incur additional cost. Halal meats are 30 percent more expensive than typical meat. The district established a contract with a Dearborn grocer to provide halal meat, costing taxpayers $228,000," read a part of the press release. The section also adds that "Dearborn's halal meals also means more money spent on staff to prepare, organize and store the meals." 
Upon talking to David Mustonen, the Communications Director at Dearborn Public Schools, a different story is told. According to Mustonen, the $228,000 figure that Mr. Jones cites is nothing more than a competitive bid given to the vendor that supplies them with the food. This year the district is getting its halal food through Rizk meat market in Dearborn and the vendor changes yearly depending on the bidding figure amount. 
"That's just a general purchase order that we do with every vendor because we won't know any of the actual amounts until the end of the school year," Mustonen stated. "It’s a standard practice among all businesses. At the end of the year it comes out to a lot less."
As far as Jones’ claims that the handling and preparing of halal meat costs the district extra money, that's also not true according to Mustonen, who says it doesn't cost the district anything extra.
"Here’s the bottom line…it doesn’t matter how much it costs," Mustonen added. "That’s how much money we need to buy the food for our kids. It’s not extra money. It’s the cost of providing lunches and providing food for our students."
If Mr. Jones feels that preparing meat in a different tradition is a threat to American society, then perhaps he should be worried about his state of Florida first. Kosher, the Jewish way of preparing meat, is featured predominantly as an option in his state. On a national level, the accessibility of kosher food is by far greater than halal. There are over 80 colleges and universities across the country that offer kosher meat as an option for their students, including Michigan State University. Yet Mr. Jones fails to acknowledge any of this in his press release.
But perhaps the biggest distortion to come out of the press release is a section that targets the University of Michigan-Dearborn for providing footbaths to Muslim students who want to perform cleansing rituals. In the statement, Mr. Jones refers to the two footbaths that were installed at the University's Fairlane Center and University Center buildings in 2008.
"The University of Michigan Dearborn installed two foot baths which cost taxpayers $100,000," the statement reads. "Minneapolis Community and Technical College has policies that strictly prohibits religious displays, and have warned against any public displays that may promote any particular religion."
When reaching out to representatives at the University of Michigan-Dearborn to clarify some facts, the information obtained was strikingly different from what Mr. Jones had claimed.
The two footbaths combined had only cost the University $25,000 total. 
Ken Kettenbeil, the University's Public Relations Director stresses that no taxpayer dollars were used. The money was actually allocated from fees that students pay for campus infrastructure maintenance and renovation. To put it in a better perspective, the installation of the footbaths was not an extra cost. The university continues to use those same student fees on a yearly basis to make improvements on the campus.
"It's unfortunate Mr. Jones did not fact-check his information published about UM-Dearborn." Kettenbeil stated. "Incorrect information can cause division in our community when we should be working together to make our community more inclusive and have constructive dialogue with one another to strengthen our region."
According to Kettenbeil, the footbaths were made as a suggestion in 2007 by both students and faculty not just for religious purposes but to avoid safety hazards. Many students that would wash their feet prior to the footbaths were more likely to leave a trail of water on the floor which could cause others to slip. The footbaths are spacious and convenient enough to avoid such hazards. 
It’s not just Muslim students that have used the footbaths. Athletes and parents with children have also found them convenient. Kettenbiel also notes that there are thousands of public places that have now included footbaths, including airports and other universities. 
Mr. Jones does in fact make a note of that in his press release, stating that universities in Washington D.C., Boston and Toledo have also installed footbaths. He also cites the Indianapolis Airport and the Kansas City International Airport for providing footbaths and claims it was for the purpose of accommodating Muslim taxi drivers. He then randomly claimed that 70 percent of taxi drivers in the U.S. are of Middle Eastern heritage and practice Islam. 
Here’s another fact-check for Mr. Jones: Only 38 percent of taxi drivers in the U.S. are of Middle Eastern descent. And not all of them are Muslim.
After finding too many discrepancies in Mr. Jones’ press release, we made an effort to contact him through his team. When questioning Stephanie Sapp, one of his representatives, about the misleading information, she quickly suggested we send all questions through email and Mr. Jones would get back to us. However both emails and phone calls were not returned. 
Jones is expected to nonetheless continue his spiel when he returns to Dearborn on April 7, where he is scheduled to protest against “Shari’a Law” in front of the Islamic Center of America on Ford Rd.  

By Samer Hijazi

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