Monday, December 17, 2007

Reasonable Accommodation

The Iconoclast: Meditation Room Open To All (But Muslims Only)

Last week, I visited a Muslim place of worship. A schedule for Islam’s five daily prayers was posted at the entrance, near a sign requesting that shoes be removed. Inside, a barrier divided men’s and women’s prayer space, an arrow informed worshippers of the direction of Mecca, and literature urged women to cover their faces.

Sound like a mosque?

The place I’m describing is the “meditation room” at Normandale Community College, a 9,200-student public institution in Bloomington.


A row of chest-high barriers splits the room into sex-segregated sections... Literature titled “Hijaab [covering] and Modesty” was prominently placed there, instructing women on proper Islamic behavior.

They should cover their faces and stay at home, it said, and their speech should not “be such that it is heard.”

“Enter into Islaam completely and accept all the rulings of Islaam,” the tract read in part. “It should not be that you accept what entertains your desires and leave what opposes your desires; this is from the manners of the Jews.”

“[T]he Jews and the Christians” are described as “the enemies of Allaah’s religion.” The document adds: “Remember that you will never succeed while you follow these people.”


...he often entered the bathroom to find that “every sink and toilet stall had someone washing his feet.” Other students couldn’t use the bathroom at these times, and those who tried felt awkward.

Lunaas finally expressed his concerns to a Muslim student who “seemed to be in charge.”
“His attitude was, ‘We don’t have to listen to you, we can do whatever we want,’ ” he said.

Confrontations also erupted in the sex-segregated meditation room, according to Lunaas. “Muslim students just took it over. They made people who were not of the Muslim religion feel very uncomfortable, especially if they were female.”

One female student tried to use the room when Muslim students were in it, said Lunaas. “She believed she should be treated equally. They were telling her to leave, to take off her shoes, to go to the other side of the divider.”

Anderson says he met several times with concerned students. But “the whole thing was just basically swept aside,” according to Lunaas...

‘We don’t have to listen to you, we can do whatever we want,'

A friend of mine lives in a neigbourhood whose Muslim population has grown considerably in the last few years. A Musim mother and her two kids decided to have a little picnic on my friend's front lawn. It is just a small patch of grass. When they finished, the place was somewhat littered with candy wrappers and banana peel. My friend asked them to pick up the stuff. You are welcome to sit on my lawn if you wish, she said to them, but you can't leave garbage when you are done. The little boy explained to his mother what my friend was saying. And she said something to him, which he repeated to my friend: It doesn't matter, because it all belongs to us anyway.

I have been thinking about this incident and have no idea what to make of it. Was it a momentary burst of resentment? Is it indicative of something more entrenched? A person is given permission to do something which is a previlege, a kind of gift. They abuse it in some way and when confronted, they bristle in indignation. Somewhere along the line, the gift turned into a right and rights do not have to be earned. Not in Canada, or the US.

Real Estate laws are not easily budgeable. My friend need hardly worry about the future of her real estate.

But I do worry about the softer aspects of these accomodations. At what point will it become thoroughly acceptable that Muslims can promote hatred towards Jews because it is enshrined in their religion?


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