Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Color My Burkha Crimson

Harvard University has given in to requests of Muslim women to close its gym to men for six hours a week to "accomodate" women who feel "uncomfortable" or "awkward" exercising in the presence of men.

Harvard Islamic Society's Islamic Knowledge Committee officer, junior Ola Aljawhary, concedes that the policy was in part initiated by the school's Islamic group. Nonetheless. she maintains that women-only hours are not a case of "minority rights trumping majority preference." She notes that women of different faiths have showed interest in the hours.

"These hours are necessary because there is a segment of the Harvard female population that is not found in gyms not because they don't want to work out, but because for them working out in a co-ed gym is uncomfortable, awkward or problematic in some way," she said.

That rationale proves too much. If all it takes to close down the gym is the assertion that a woman feels "uncomfortable or awkward," then fat women might similarly claim the right to exercise without men. Likewise slender and attractive women, who don't want to be hit on while they work out. That's why some women join Curves for Women and others go to Wellesely. Muslim women, of course, have the same options.

And so we get to the real rationale:

"We live together in one community, it only makes sense for everyone to compromise slightly in order for everyone to live happily," she said. "This matter is simple: Can't we just display basic decency and show tolerance and inclusion for people not a part of the mainstream majority?"

"Tolerance and inclusion" : those are code words to warn white men that they are about to get discriminated against, and better like it.

There are aspects to Harvard banning the men from the gym that are just surreal. First, Harvard was founded as a men's institution. Women asked to be included. And that has to imply that women will suffer the presence of men, even during exercise. If anything, the men have stronger precedent to demand the right to exercise without women.

Here's the deal, ladies. When you graduate, you will be forced to work with men, no matter what field you pursue. It's better to learn to accept that now. Indeed, you should take advantage of the opportunity to play squash with your male class mates; it will improve your game.

Ironically, Harvard's first benefactor, John Harvard, was a Puritan minister, though the school's focus became secular. Harvard prides itself on the broad range of backgrounds of its students, and correctly so. It is therefore appropriate for Harvard to welcome the Muslim women, if they meet the academic requirements.

But these women chose to go to there; they applied and matriculated to a school that includes men and did not ban men from the gym, prior to their arrival. And to demand the institution to bend to accomodate their sensibilites -- whether or not they are based on religion -- is the height of arrogance.

The Muslim women really are asking for more than an accomodation: they are asking for an imposition on everyone else. It would be like Orthodox Jews demanding that all students eat Kosher foods. Or an Evangelical Christian forcing all other students to only read texts that do not discuss evolution.

Colleges teach more than academics; they provide life lessons, too. And the Muslim women of Harvard need to learn that it's not all about them.

H/T: Instapundit.

No comments: