Muslim students at Australian universities have demanded that class schedules be changed to work around their prayer times, and that male and female students be provided with separate cafeterias and recreational areas.
This is in line with similar initiatives in the United States, where the Muslim Students Association carries, on the “Muslim Accommodations Task Force” page of its website, pdfs of pamphlets entitled “How to Achieve Islamic Holidays on Campus,” “How to Establish a Prayer Room on Campus,” and “How to Achieve Halal Food on Campus.”
The MSA directs Muslim students to present these demands in the context of multiculturalism and civil rights. “Most campuses,” explains the publication on getting recognition of Islamic holy “include respecting diversity as a part of their mission statement. They consider enrollment of diverse students an asset to the community, as they enhance the classroom learning experience and enrich student life. Try to find these statements specific to your campus, and explain that recognition of Islamic holidays would serve as a practical example of upholding these ideals.”
Such recognition would also serve to right wrongs done to Muslims on campus: “If any cases of bias against Muslims took place on campus in the recent past, present the proposal as an opportunity to foster cooperation and increase understanding.” It would be a simple matter of civil rights: “Additionally, if special holiday recognition is being offered to other faith communities (Jewish, Catholic, Protestant), Muslims have strong grounds to make a petition for equal consideration of their holiday requirements.”
It’s ironic that such calls for equal consideration would be made in service of an agenda that is so interested in being separate: the calls for separate eating and exercise facilities are a strange discordant note in a movement that claims for itself the mantle of the American civil rights movements. By the MSA”s lights, the Muslim Rosa Parks would insist on sitting in a separate place on the bus, and Muslim students would demand the right not to have to eat at infidel lunch counters.
This is one of the primary reasons, but by no means the only reason, why the increasingly shrill demands in Western countries for accommodation of Muslim practices are not the latest manifestation of the push for equal rights for minorities, notwithstanding the posturings and protestations of Muslim leaders. Demanding a place at the table is not the same thing as demanding a separate table of one’s own. In the civil rights movement, black Americans were working for full inclusion in the larger secular democratic culture, not trying to carve out their own enclave within it. If anything, they had that already, and that was the problem: if the Supreme Court could conclude in Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka that “in the field of public education, the doctrine of separate but equal has no place,” because “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” then they are still unequal.
And just as they were deemed unequal in 1954 because they abetted cultural attitudes that exalted one group as superior to the other, so also today: the demands of Muslim groups for separate facilities are in the service of a supremacist ideology that emanates from the Qur’anic assertions that Muslims are the “best of people” (3:110) while unbelievers are the “vilest of created beings” (98:6). Unbelievers are unclean (9:28) — which leads to the conclusion, reasonable to the pious, that Muslims should be chary of contact with them. Every Western capitulation made to demands for Muslim accommodation only feeds these supremacist notions, and works directly against the actual goals of the civil rights movement, which were equal justice and equal rights for all.
What’s more, the MSA, the chief proponent of the growing Muslim accommodations movement in the United States, was listed as a “friend” of the Muslim Brotherhood in the infamous 1992 memorandum which spoke of the “grand Jihad” aimed at “eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “˜sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” The victory of Allah’s religion over other religions is a Qur’anic imperative: “And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah” (8:39), and it is an inherently supremacist imperative, in which non-Muslims pay a special tax from which Muslims are exempt, the jizya, “with willing submission and feel themselves subdued” (9:29).
Instead of capitulating to Muslim demands for separate facilities, university administrators and public officials ought to question those making the demands about their overall goals, and about the incongruity of claiming that creation of their own enclave is a matter of equality of rights for all.
But when will we have university administrators and public officials with that kind of courage and foresight?