Feature

Canada: Tolerating far too much intolerance

A male Muslim university student can’t be allowed to shun all classroom interaction with women.

Emmett MacfarlaneThe Globe and Mail

A male Muslim university student can’t be allowed to shun all classroom interaction with women, said Emmett Macfarlane. The law requires public and private institutions to make “reasonable accommodation” for citizens’ religious practices, such as not holding exams on religious holidays. Yet it should be obvious that “segregating students at a public institution in Canada is anathema to basic liberal democratic values.” Recently, though, York University sanctioned a professor for refusing to excuse a male Muslim student from required work in a mixed-gender group. The professor rightly determined that the student’s religiously grounded request was not reasonable; the administration wrongly overruled him. This incident is “emblematic of a pernicious pattern within university administration where decision-makers have completely lost sight of the ‘reasonable’ in reasonable accommodation.” They routinely fail to defend free speech on campus; every year school events are “canceled or interrupted because some small segment of the campus population is ‘offended’ by the invited speaker’s presence.” Being a Canadian citizen involves interacting with people of different sexes, nationalities, and religions. The job of educators is not to shield students from the real world. Instead, we must teach them that “certain basic societal values are inviolable.”

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