12 June 2008

Political Correctness or Good Public Policy?

I am prone to wasting too much time surfing the Internet instead of doing the things that I probably should be doing like my work. Yet, my surfing hobby teaches me much and I learn lots of interesting "stuff". Most of this "stuff" will only ever be of any use if the makers of Trivial Pursuit update the questions to include more recent irrelevant factoids for me to excel on.

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.


Polar Bear said...

Australia being Australia, the Bear will smash the door down and wash his ass in the hand basin, claiming it’s a Polar Bear religious act and as such its permissible.

Rob Baiton said...

I am guessing you do not work at La Trobe?

Polar Bear said...

Long ago, the Bear was an Engineer. He was working at a major Australian mining town/site, when he gashed his leg open on the steel band on a pallet of goods he was inspecting. The site nurse asked him to take his trousers off, and carefully tended to a very painful injury.

She was Aboriginal.

In the town there were “Abo Bars” and “White Bars”. I was told NOT to go in the Abo bars, and NOT to bring Abos into “our bars”.
I remember being shocked and infuriated that I could not take the girl who had tendered my injuries, as I stood in my underpants, into the bar with me.

These days I would have taken her in anyway and beaten the crap out of anyone who objected….

Polar Bear said...

Nope - a Well known Sydney university.....

Rob Baiton said...


I think your responses are the reason that I think we could be friends!

I find that I tend to gravitate towards the "no shitters" of this world. Those folks that call it as they see it and resolutely defend their rights to hold such opinions!

I think that the idea of "unofficially segregated bars still exists to this day doesn't it? Where bars can still be identified by a certain type of clientele?