York University Orders Teacher To Accommodate Muslim Who Wants No Interaction With Women

Unknown150px-muslim_woman_in_yemenThere is an interesting story out of Canada’s York University and raises the question again with the extent to which business and institutions must accommodate religious values or practices. Professor Paul Grayson at York University was shocked when the university ordered him to allow a graduate student to skip a required part of the curriculum because he did not want any contact with women for religious purposes. He disobeyed the orders of his superiors in refusing the accommodation and could be disciplined for his decision (which was made with the support of his faculty).

We just discussed that subject in relation to a U.S. trucking company that was told by the Obama Administration not to require Muslims to ship products with any alcohol or pork. Likewise, a British store allowed employees to decline to help customers buying alcohol.

In this case, a York student wrote Grayson to say that he objected to the online in-person requirement of the online course in sociology: a student-run focus group. The student said that he was required to work online to avoid contact with women as a good Muslim: “One of the main reasons that I have chosen internet courses to complete my BA is due to my firm religious beliefs. It will not be possible for me to meet in public with a group of women (the majority of my group) to complete some of these tasks.” Grayson forwarded the message to the schools dean and the director for the Center for Human Rights. They came back with an order to comply with the student’s request and not require him to be in the presence of females. The vice dean noted that distant students are not required to be on campus and, while this student can, he could be treated as if he were in another country. The school reportedly admitted that the decision was made in consultation with legal counsel. Grayson objected that the exception for the other students was due to their inability not unwillingness to be present.

That triggered a debate between religious rights and women’s rights. Grayson objected that “York is a secular university. It is not a Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, or Moslem university. In our policy documents and (hopefully) in our classes we cling to the secular idea that all should be treated equally, independent of, for example, their religion or sex or race . . . Treating Mr. X equally would mean that, like other students, he is expected to interact with female students in his group.” Grayson asked what would be done with a student who claimed a religious avoidance of black people.

What is most striking is that various Islamic professors said that there is absolutely no religious basis for refusing to interact with females. One Islamic scholar wrote “[u]nless he is asked to be physical with a female student, which I assume he isn’t, there is absolutely no justification for not interacting with females in public space.” Of course, we have seen a different view from places like Iran where the highest cleric has banned even interacting with females on social media sites.

However, the student later agreed to participate in the classes with women. Thus, it did not appear to be a religious prohibition even in the mind of this student. Yet, the University and its lawyers were willing to segregate students on the basis of such a request.

While the public backlash probably will protect him (as will his colleagues), Grayson stands in violation of a direct order of the University.

The incident raises again the degree to which institutions should accommodate religious views. In my view, this is different from student clubs, which are voluntary. What is striking is that such rules have been applied against religious clubs, while schools like Harvard have accommodated such religious objections in segregating other programs.

There are some legitimate religious objections in my view to the imposition of nondiscrimination rules, but when it comes to classes, the non-discrimination rules would seem to take clear preeminence. As academics, we preserve a special space for learning where freedom of thought and speech prevail. This community is based on pluralism and equality. For some groups to demand segregation in the name of tolerance should be anathema for our collective intellectual mission.

What do you think?

Source: The Star

41 thoughts on “York University Orders Teacher To Accommodate Muslim Who Wants No Interaction With Women”

  1. Im more concerned about what the current US administration is doing to attract fanatics to migrate here , by doing things like ordering a shipping company not to require Muslim workers to carry alcohol , than what York is doing . People like Einstein come here for the opposite reasons than what Obama administration seems to think makes the US a magnet for mentally advanced immigrants !

  2. BarkinDog, I think you’re right. That looks like Franklin to me. And if he were blogging today, he’d say that capitulating to religious lunacy is stupid, as stupid as the recently noted majority of American self identified Conservatives who don’t “believe” in evolution. Religious whackos, of all stripes, will be the end of our civilization.

  3. This is off topic but is that not Ben Franklin sitting in the front row of the photo of the painting up there at the top of this page? Lower left side. Front row, second from left side.

  4. I agree with Randyjets recent comment above. What will be fun to watch is when some Sunni says he can not take class with a Luni or one of those other sects. Then women will object to being with a bigot muslim. Gee, doesn’t this get back to when Jim Crow did not want to sit with Percy Green on the front seat of a bus?

  5. I agree with randyjet. If a muslim does not want to interact with women, the last places they should go to “live” is Canada or America. Additionally, I am an American Indian. My ancestors lost their lives and land for the freedoms that we have. I will not let any visitor to this country try to take away our freedoms. I do not ever hear about Kareem Abdul Jabbar or Muhammud Ali making any more demands on us than to respect them and that they have these religious beliefs.

  6. This is up there with the Law Professor yesterday. At what point does an institutions need to accommodate cross the line into ludicrous? At what point does the student need to show some personal responsibility for his situation? If he wants to be a hermit where women are concerned – he should go to a school where there are no women or take online classes.

    1. Cheryl, he needs to leave Canada, and go back to Saudi Arabia. It is not up to Canada to conform to Muslim norms. Time to purge the US and Canada of people who cannot conform to our laws, and deport them back home. If they are natives, then we cannot do much other than ignore them and encourage them to leave to go to some place where they will be happier.

  7. And it’s a public university too. Sex discrimination is illegal in Canada!

  8. The professor took quite a risk, but I do agree that any university should be able to mandate class participation, as long as it does not violate the law. How does this student think he was conceived? By air mail?

  9. How can Canada, which values equality, permit this kind of exemption? Very surprising.

  10. Does this student realize what he got himself into when he signed up for this Sociology course; that is maybe there might be a chance he would have to deal with ~51% of the world being women in a social environment?

    There is the notion of “reasonable accomodation”. His request is not reasonable.

  11. Suzanne, How the hell did he get through K-12, 80% of teachers are female. Of course, that’s the US. But still, he had to have had women teachers previously. This doesn’t add up.

  12. Suzanne, How the hell did he get through K-12, 80% of teachers are female. Of course, that’s the US. But still, he had to have had women teachers previously.

  13. “the right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes).”

    Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon vs. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990)

  14. Were I a woman in his school I would go out of my way to interact with him. Does he never find himself face to face with a female clerk in a store? a woman bus driver? wait til he has to visit a medical office!!

  15. From Wikipedia
    Misogyny /mɪˈsɒdʒɪni/ is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women.[1][2] Misogyny has been characterised as a prominent feature of the mythologies of the ancient world as well as of various religions. In addition, many influential Western philosophers have been described as misogynistic.[1] The counterpart of misogyny is misandry, the hatred or dislike of men; the antonym of misogyny is philogyny, the love or fondness of women.

  16. Go back to ….. (fill in blank____________) (pirate territory where he came from). Accommodate the school. With hold all revenues paid in taxes by females. That is about 50%. The school is wrong and needs to be punished.

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