Tuesday, 15 March 2016

For religious reasons

I saw a tweet from Ibtihaj Muhammad, who is a member of the USA fencing world team, according to her twitter bio. Not being much into fencing, I can't say I'd heard of her before. (She's Rio bound in 2016, is seems. Good luck to her!)

Ibtihaj had an issue with being asked to remove her hijab to receive her ID badge at an event (from what I can find out, a music festival). 

From what I've read since, it seems that the organisers of the event had no requirement for her to remove her headscarf and that security was overstepping the mark in requesting her to do so.  

What I found interesting was Ibtihaj's subsequent tweet which said 

'Even after I explained it was for religious reasons...' Why does that make a difference? Why should someone be allowed an exception just because of what they believe to be true? Even if it's a sincerely held belief. 

Of course I think people should be entitled to believe whatever they like, my question is, at what point do I stop being obliged to accommodate it? 

At what point can an event organiser say 'we don't allow any head-ware on our ID badges' and expect everyone to comply? 

What if we say we accommodate anything that doesn't cause harm or negatively impact others? @megcl0ud on twitter put it as accommodating: cases of non-violent, non-threatening personal convictions. 

Off the bat, this sounds fair enough. 

Question one, for me is, how to you measure a personal conviction? There is the well known case of Niko Alm, an Austrian atheist who, back in 2011, won the right to wear a pasta strainer in his driving license photograph, due to claiming to be a member of the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I don't think anyone for a moment believes Niko genuinely believes in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but he forced the court's hand and argued successfully. 

The organisers of Wimbledon have a rule that anyone competing in the tournament must be wearing predominately white. 

Thought experiment: What if a tennis player belongs to a religion that demands they only ever wear pink? If we're allowing things 'for religious reasons' do we give this person an exemption? If we follow the 'non-violent, non-threatening personal conviction' suggestion, then yes, we should accommodate someone wearing pink. 

Seems it would be the kind thing to do. 

What if someone else has a religion that demands the only wear blue. And someone else is red. Green. Suddenly we've got no one wearing white, and no two people wearing the same colours. 

What then happens to the rules at Wimbledon? Are they not entitled to run an event where everyone wears white? Wearing white is non-threatening, non-violent action. Wimbledon organisers might have a personal conviction that their tennis tournament be held in white. Why should they be forced to give up their conviction for the conviction of someone else? 

Well, I don't think they should. It's a private event. They should be allowed to say 'you play wearing white, or you don't play'. They're not banning people for who they are. They're not saying a woman can't play because of her sexual orientation. They're not saying a black man can't compete because of the colour of his skin. They're saying if you want to play in this tournament, you have to wear white. And they should be allowed to. 

Just as a bank should be allowed to say that you can't enter if your face is covered. Regardless of what you're covering it with, or why you're covering it. 

Just as a restaurant should be allowed to say we serve only meat dishes and if you choose to be a vegan, you can find somewhere else to eat. 

This is not discrimination based on who someone is, this is having the right to not have to accommodate every choice someone makes. It might be that a restaurant suffers from not having vegan options on the menu. So be it. That's a commercial decision. I don't eat seafood, but I'm not about to force a seafood restaurant to serve a meal I would like. I'll just go eat elsewhere. 

If your choice of religion prevents you from doing something because you don't want rules that apply to everyone else, to apply to you, then it's *you* that should be finding the alternative. 

It's not that I'm against being kind or accommodating people. It's about where to draw the line. I had a long discussion on twitter with @megcl0ud  and @idiocyalert. They agreed 'for religious reasons' was not enough. It has to be, at least 'for religious reasons*' I just thing you can remove the 'for religious reason' and make the * secular. 

You allow head-ware (hats, sunnies, a Red Sox cap) or you don't. Simple. 

I'm sure there are many hijab-wearing Muslim women have thought or even asked to not be treated differently because of their religion. 

This would probably be so much easier if people stopped asking to be treated differently just because of their religion.  

1 comment:

  1. An interesting alternative to people denied bank entry when wearing face covering would be if they were allowed access but had to conduct the transaction with a gun fixed on their head.
    I think this situation would be far worse in its impact on society, so removing the covering is by far the easiest option.
    I suppose anyone should be allowed to walk around with a bag over their head if they're so inclined; look at the 'Elephant Man'! But...don't be surprised at restrictions to entry or other manifestations of bureaucracy.