Today Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten concludes her series of columns on the the introduction of ritual washing facilities to facilitate “wudu” for Muslim prayer at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Kathy’s column is “‘Accommodation’ could open door to more demands.” It’s a pedestrian heading for an alarming column that takes a look at the “accommodations” road we’re headed down:
Canada, our neighbor to the north, is farther down the “accommodations” road. A glance north can shed light on whether prayer spaces and ritual washing facilities are likely to satisfy activists for long.
Last month, the Canadian Federation of Students issued a report, titled “Final Report of the Task Force on Needs of Muslim Students,” that calls for sweeping changes at the country’s institutions of higher education. The federation represents more than 500,000 students across Canada, about half of the nation’s total. While the report focuses on Ontario, its conclusions are applicable across the country and internationally, said Jesse Greener, the Federation’s Ontario chairperson.
Some recommended changes could affect all students. For example, the report criticizes Canada’s loan-based system of financing higher education and calls for outright grants to students. “Education related government loans should not accumulate interest,” it says, since Islam “opposes usury and involvement with interest-bearing loans.” Other changes would be more focused. The report endorses “women-only” time at athletic facilities, and urges colleges to “provide curtains or screens over the observation windows” when women are using the pool.
The report calls not just for Muslim-only prayer space but for “multiple prayer spaces” with “easy access” from all over campus. All new building plans should include prayer space and ritual washing facilities if necessary, it adds.
Food service workers must learn to prepare halal food, which is ritually slaughtered and otherwise permissible under Sharia law. After preparing non-halal food, staff must “change sanitary gloves and wash cutlery and surfaces” to avoid contaminating halal food.
What if a campus fails to make these changes, and others like them? It is guilty, says the report, of “Islamophobia” — an “emerging form of racism,” according to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Islamophobia includes more than clearly inappropriate behavior such as violence against Muslims or unreasonable suspicion of them. It can be as “subtle” as a remark that includes a “stereotype” or betrays the speaker’s “lack of understanding” of Islam (such as the notion that Sharia law treats women as second class citizens). Just “one comment” of this kind can create a “poisoned” learning environment for Muslim students, the report says.
“Islamophobic” comments will soon land Canadians in serious trouble, if the federation has its way. The report outlines a comprehensive system “to encourage and facilitate a culture of reporting Islamophobia on campus. Anti-discrimination officers should be notified whenever such a comment is made, it says.
But the report makes clear that systems like this will not eradicate Islamophobia from Canadian campuses. To remove stereotypes, faculty, staff, students and administrators must all learn “the tenets of Islam,” it said. “Education modules” for professors should incorporate a focus on “Islam and Islamophobia,” while student activities could range from more courses on themes of the Qur’an and the Islamic world today to “socials, programs and other initiatives” to teach about Islam. Everyone on campus should learn to recognize his or her “collective responsibility to identify and stop Islamophobia.”
Throughout this process, however, Islam must not be taught from a “Western perspective.” This qualifies as Islamophobia, because it “misrepresents Islam.” At the same time, the report says, some Muslim students have called for integrating “Islamic perspectives” in disciplines such as marketing, nursing and finance,” since Islam’s view of these differs from those of the West.
The Muslim Students Association of the U.S. and Canada is heavily involved in the Canadian Federation of Students’ new report and lobbying. Its president is a member of the task force, and has been a spokesman for its recommendations. The association is the organization that Minneapolis Community and Technical College has looked to for guidance on the ritual washing issue.
Its main goal, it says, is “Dawah”: spreading Islam.
For the perfect companion to Kathy’s column, check out Aaron Hanscom’s PJM report “A threat to their own campus.” Subhead: “Round 2 in the battle between Daniel Pipes and radical Muslims in the California university system.”