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March 4, 2000

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What's a Bombay girl doing in the Bob Jones case?

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J M Shenoy

When the president of the controversial Bob Jones University announced on Larry King Live on Friday that the school has revoked its ban on inter-racial dating, US presidential candidate John McCain was given credit for the university's change of rules.

It is McCain, who is lagging behind his Republican rival George W Bush, who stirred the recent debate about the university and its narrow policies.

But the little-known but persistently campaigning third Republican candidate Alan Keyes, who is African American, thinks he too deserve some credit.

Like Bush, Keyes too has addressed the mostly white, ultra-conservative and fundamentalist university known for its strident anti-Catholicism. He is convinced that behind the fašade of anti-Catholicism, the school has its true soul -- and respect for conservative values.

Bush's visit to the South Carolina university brought in a lot of criticism led by McCain. Bush was forced to apologize to Catholics, but Keyes's visit hardly caused any furor.

Everyone knows he is African American. Everyone knows he is ultra conservative, and he won't miss an opportunity to address conservative groups.

But not many know that he is Catholic. And not many know of his Indian wife and their three children.

Keyes, who backs the ban on abortion, supports death penalty and wants prayers be allowed in public schools, says he is not surprised that the Bob Jones University decided to lift the ban on interracial dating.

"They knew I have been married to an Indian," the Harvard-educated Keyes says. He called the lifting of the ban "a good step forward." And he told Associated Press that the university did not mind his presence though it knew he had married an Indian. "Our marriage would have violated their guidelines," he said.

Keyes met Jocelyn Marcel during his brief stint as United States vice-consul in Bombay. She follows him on his campaign trail.

She has been able to win him many friends in the Indian American community who applaud his staunch family values, whether or not they can help him into office.

Next: White American? Or Asian American?

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