God and Allah at Harvard

Holy hijab, batman! Militant Islam will always find enablers among fair-minded people. Fair-minded, if, perhaps, a little weak on their history. Ruth Marcus is one such, who writes an oh-so-reasonable column today which could be titled, “why can’t we all just get along?”

The immediate provocations may seem slight: Harvard University restricting access to one of its gyms to Muslim women. Another is the broadcast of the Muslim call to prayer from Harvard’s main library.

Both are obscene violations of non-Muslims’ rights. Firstly, the right to full and equal access to facilities paid for by all. Secondly, and of greater import, the right not to be subjected to false religious dogma in a public place.

The First Amendment guarantees the right of Muslims to speak freely about their beliefs. As it does for us all. But I would be willing to bet that Harvard would not allow the equivalent broadcast of, say, the Lord’s Prayer over loudspeakers. Or, perhaps a daily recitation of the Rosary.   I might like both, but wouldn’t dare insist on it.   I’m not a gambling man, but I’d be willing to bet you won’t hear either, and probably never have.

The equal access case is air-tight. Unless, and until, other groups that might like such restricted access are offered it, it is absolutely wrong to exclude the Harvard population from the facility. All are paying for the facility; all have, or should have, equal rights of access. Marcus, apparently, disagrees on both points. No big deal, she writes:

My reaction is more along the lines of: “Get a grip.” It’s reasonable to set aside a few off-peak hours at one of Harvard’s many gyms. It’s not offensive to have the call to prayer echoing across Harvard Yard, any more than it is to ring church bells or erect a giant menorah there.

A regime of reasonable accommodation inevitably entails difficult — Talmudic, even — line-drawing. That’s not true of the claim that the call to prayer offends because it proclaims publicly what other religions are polite enough to keep private: the exclusive primacy of their faith. Surely even Harvard students aren’t so delicate that they can’t cope with hearing speech with which they disagree — in a language they don’t understand.

So it is apparently just fine and dandy to have one’s faith denied. Just so long as you don’t understand the language in which the denial is made? Nonsense. The public square is for all religions, and must favor none.

Harvard, you might argue, as a private institution, is not the “public square.” But it is, not least because it receives Federal funding for research and other purposes. But mostly because Harvard and other top-tier universities should set the standard in respecting the rights of all.

No religion should be privileged. That is the essential message. If one’s faith requires the kind of modesty that Islam seems to require, fine. But do not inconvenience the rest of us for your selfish and unshared beliefs. As for the alleged equivalence of a “giant menorah” or church bells, don’t think so. Those are passive displays, and, in this century, church bells on a campus absolutely signify nothing more than the turning of the hour.

The word for Ruth Marcus’ attitude? Dhimmitude. The willing submission, as second class citizens, to Islam.



  1. On your logic, having certain bathrooms reserved for men is equally discriminatory: “all have paid for the facility [of men’s bathrooms], and all have, or should have, equal rights of access.” It is no answer to say that women have separate but equal bathrooms, as men don’t need their bathrooms nearly as much: a more realistic figure would be three women’s bathrooms for every men’s bathroom (given equal numbers of men and women in the population served) as a quick check of the lines outside the women’s bathrooms at public venues will quickly establish.

    As for your other complaint, it is one of the oldest going: “We are deprived of our rights, because *right there* are those infamous heretics, practicing their perversion of true doctrine, in public even!” In our society, “rights” are a secular notion, and in secular law, “false religious doctrine” is meaningless: all religious doctrines are neither true nor false for secular purposes.

  2. JBDay · · Reply

    This is, in reality, nothing but cultural surrender by the elitist Harvard authorities. Creeping sharia is, in the long run, a dangerous threat to the fundamental freedoms we have here in the West which began in 1989 when Khomeini issued his death fatwa against “Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie.

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