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. He’s still interacting with women in his online courses, no? Perhaps he should take Iranian online courses.

  2. Bank of America works with fusion centers, the FBI, state and local police, and campus security to monitor public protest in the United States, newly disclosed documents confirm.

    A Washington state public records request has unearthed an email chain which includes a message from a Vice President of Global Corporate Security for Bank of America, describing efforts to combat economic justice organizing. The official explains that the powerful financial institution employs a staff of 20 full-time social media spies, and references public-private surveillance efforts directed at activists who aim to hold banks accountable for social crises like the foreclosure disaster.

  3. Would someone try to find my post under “NSA refuses to confirm” post by JT, for me please? It is very important information. It won’t even show in comments that I’ve asked to find the post. ARGGG!

  4. Houstonian,

    It is such a sad idea that a man can not see a woman without thinking about her as sexual “temptress”. How about men start looking at us as their fellow human being, as friends, fellow citizens, fellow students?

    What is it about religions who believe when a man sees a woman the only response he could ever have is the desire to have sex with her? Further, what is so evil about sex? Sex without consent is rape. Obviously, that is wrong. But sexuality between people who wish to be together without coercion is not evil. Why do so many religions hate honest, open, free sexual expression? That’s such a sad, awful way of looking at sexuality and other human beings.

  5. It is rather difficult to argue the requested accommodation is unreasonable when other students in the same program are permitted to avoid the requirement. While the required interaction may be beneficial, it is clearly not essential.

  6. He was taking an online course to avoid contact with women. I would suspect that he is trying very much to hold to the morals of his faith and while yet unmarried, and a young man, it is a challenge to him. He is going the extra mile in the practice of his faith(normal interaction is not prohibited religiously). I don’t think the accommodation was outrageous, but I do think this kid is living in a dream world if he thinks he can avoid girls that are tempting for the rest of his adult years.

    I think that a discussion with a parent or other authority figure got him straightened out, but ultimately, there are a lot more women who are taking online courses to avoid contact with men-and most here would not degrade them for it, they would probably pity them or think they were forced into that choice.

    1. Sorry Houstonian, but most women are taking on line courses because they are at home and have other obligations such as taking care of kids, or are working. In fact, back in the day, most women went to college to get a degree and a hubby of suitable education and status.

      I would encourage this Muslim to avoid women and I hope that he never marries. We have quite enough of religious fanatics, and we do NOT need to breed more. I would also make sure that no conservative Muslim woman gets into Canada any more to preclude him from getting a mail order Muslim wife.

  7. The words “I believe” are used to excuse every kind of human behavior imaginable. What seems to be changing is the willingness to object to magic-thinking using the most strenuous language, particularly among those under age 45 or so. “Church exemptions,” one hazards, will eventually end, so long as America does not go down the silly anti-blasphemy road.

  8. I wish the EEOC were as concerned with the rights of older workers who are veterans as well. Instead they simply spit on airline pilots who were discriminated against when they turned 60 and were fired. Even though there is a law that mandates the company offer other employment for veterans, they chose to ignore that law completely. Even when the pilots knew of the law and filed timely complaints, they ignored them. I guess they might have had a better chance if they had claimed to be Muslim, black, or Latino. Knowing now the laws on discrimination, I would have claimed to be Hispanic in the course of my working life. Ward Churchill got away with claiming to be Native American since the only proof required is the identification of the person involved. So if you say you are Hispanic or black, that is all it takes. It sure would have helped me in getting hired at the airlines back when I started.

  9. Civil law sets the bottom requirement for every person in a society. Religions may offer an increase in rights to individuals. But religions may not take away the civil rights or violate the civil law for members of society.

    I see birth control as the same type of example. The Catholic church may not accept Caesar’s coin and tax exemption while refusing the civil rights of women.

    This is not AD 1200. Canada and the US must confront inequality of persons in their societies. Their governments must protect equality, not fold in the presence of injustice because a religion requires it. These are civil, not religious societies and need to start acting as such.

  10. Some Muslims are already banned by western & even most eastern states. The governments call them terrorists; they call themselves martyrs; best identified by explosives around their person along with eastern dress. (unfortunately few will be that obvious!) We could expand the list of antisocial religious people that we don’t have to bend over backwards to appease. Its easy to condemn all Muslims because you think their leader was a warmongering antisocial arsehole, but not all followers are that way by a long shot. Even so, there has to be a proven crime to prosecute or kill, except for the obvious imminent danger which is defence of others or self. But identifying radical antisocial activity of some members of a religion actually protects the rights of other social members of that religion if done right. A little off the subject perhaps as there are no crimes here but one can go too far either way. This muslim is doing a disservice to all moderate muslims that get on okay all across the world.

  11. Dredd,

    Yes!! What is wrong with using Skype? Why does he have to be physically present if this is an online course? If he lived in San Diego, CA or China, then, would the professor require him to make the trip?

    I can’t understand why faculty members would risk their tenured, jobs (this professor ‘stands in violation of a direct order’) over little ‘stuff’ (side note: according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, for every open, tenured faculty position, there are least 20-30 qualified applicants, interested and have sent hundreds of pages of CV/RESUMES/WRITING SAMPLES/RECOMMENDATIONS etc.).

    If your employer tells you to do something, then do it (if you don’t want to do it, then be prepared to put in your 2 weeks notice, because, as Professor JT has stated, there will be some form of retaliation by your employer, if you don’t comply.

  12. You saw the day if you are over 20 or so, the Soviet Union. Be careful what you wish for,

  13. There is one country that immediately comes to mind where he can stay away from women forever if he so desires…….Iran!!! Somehow I think this clown would not be so happy there.
    What a jerk. This earth will be a much better place when all religion is gone. I only wish I could live to see that day.

  14. This is outrageous.

    If One argued tha one I wanted no interaction with Muslims, for religious reasons of course, I doubt whether that desire would be accommodated. How about asking for special privileges because you don’t want to interact with blacks or Asians? If this man is so afraid of women he should exclude himself from going out into the public.

    We know that the next step here is segregating men from women and the excluding women because men of a certain pursuation cannot control themselves. York University is wrong, very wrong.

  15. Sounds like he’s kinda lazy and used religion as an excuse not to attend class….

  16. Solution…. Lock the little creap in a box, in the back corner of the room…. With just an air hole in the top of the box

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