However, as I was surfing I came across this article on washrooms. More interesting was the fact that one of my fellow bloggers and a Polar Bear to boot had actually blogged about this already in a posting titled "Washroom Wars". The Polar Bear and I, although originating from the same iceberg, often have to agree to disagree on certain things but always respectfully disagreeing. I must confess that I enjoy reading the Bear's take on the things that interest and concern him as many of these things also interest and concern me.
Anyway, enough on the Bear and onto the topic at hand.
The story is this. La Trobe University has decided in its infinite wisdom that there is a need for Muslim only washrooms on campus. The idea of this kind of segregation was destined to be met with calls of bias and discrimination. I am glad that my fellow Australians have not disappointed me and have taken issue with this and sparked a much needed debate on exactly what course multicultural Australia is going to embark on into the future.
The washrooms have special security arrangements where entry can only be granted on the entry of an accepted push-button code. The University and the Muslim community have stated that this is essential to Muslim prayer rituals. This is simply not true! Muslims have special washing rituals that they must complete before prayer, but none of these require Muslim only access to a washroom. Washrooms would only need to be modified in order that it would be easier for Muslims to wash their feet rather than having to hoick the leg over the waist-high hand basin!
This is a slippery slope that leads to an inevitable backlash as others demand special privileges based on some perceived need that may not be borne out by the reality of the request. This is not about providing a special prayer room! I have no problems with special prayer rooms. Most Christian denominations have been granted special prayer rooms to conduct their business and this should be no different for Muslims!
The question that needs to be asked here is a simple one. Where do we draw the line in the sand on this one? Do we accept that there should be separate Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Adventist, Pentecostal, or whatever else someone wants to claim, washrooms. Do we accept that trains and buses need to include special sections or carriages for Muslim passengers or more exclusively Muslim women?
This is a small step from the segregated past that many had thought we had left behind. This is but a small hop, skip, and a jump from male only schools, stolen generations, white and non-white swimming pools, or heaven forbid the White Australia Policy. This is a policy that exacerbates community divisions rather than moving towards healing them.
I wonder what sort of multicultural Australia I and the better half are returning to raise the kid in.