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When Public Concerns Go Splashing About in Private Convictions
by R. John Matthies • Apr 18, 2008 at 4:07 pm
Question: When can the municipal pool prohibit a man from men-only swims? Answer: When the session has been flagged "Muslim-only." Or so one explained to David Toube and his son, who appeared at the Clissold Leisure Centre (in the London borough of Hackney) during the Sunday morning men's modesty session.
Mr. Toube blogged his experience, writing:
Mr. Toube then spoke with another Leisure Centre employee, who offered an "identical story." What's worse:
How "equality" like this stands to set things right is anyone's guess. Mr. Toube, for his part, was appalled.
The Comments portion of the news item offers additional opinions. There are those, for example, resigned to write "Sounds about right nowadays," in addition to those who press for legal remedies for this backward sort of discrimination.
Most useful, however, are comments like these: "As a Muslim myself, I think it's disgusting!"; or, "Is this another case of the PC brigade rushing to the aid of Muslims – without ever asking Muslims how they feel about it?? […] I have many Muslim friends and none of them has any attitude resembling the kind of sensitivities that they are accused of. The PC brigade are doing them more harm than good. Fact."
While some are no doubt glad for these accommodations – for which the Leisure Centre has in turn apologized and then weakly denied – it has become clear that ostensibly secular institutions, in the public and private sectors, are inclined to establish policies of religious exception with little, if any, arm-twisting on the part of the target group.
But a spokesman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission cautions: "Segregating services may amount to unlawful discrimination and could create a sense of unfairness, inadvertently increasing community tension."
And Britain's race equality chief Trevor Phillips once warned that the United Kingdom was in danger of "sleepwalking [its] way to segregation," with no small push from municipal and state authorities.
Both may be correct, which requires Hackney Council to deep-six the men's modesty session – and restore the discipline of equality to the Clissold Leisure Centre.