Thursday, April 12, 2007

Separation of Mosque and State?

Why is it that in the Minnesota public university system you can't play Christmas music at Christmas, but a college will use public funds to install non-needed Muslim foot-washing basins?


Eric Stoller said...

Having worked at an institution that has a large population of Muslim students (University of Illinois at Chicago) I can attest to the importance of foot-washing basins. Trying to wash your feet in a regular sink is an exercise in balance, dexterity and luck.

Christmas music does not make Christmas time safer for those who celebrate the holiday.

The article that you cite states that "Muslim prayer is an increasingly controversial issue." Controversial for folks who are in the dominant ideological paradigm perhaps but not to those of us who have experience working with and supporting students of various faiths.

radar said...

Completely nuts. I get no special privileges for my religion and there is no precedent, law, or public policy that demands in any way religious accommodation at public universities. Quite the contrary - the separation of church and state, so often cited by liberals and the ACLU to remove such inflammatory items as the 10 commandments from courthouses, specifically forbids such items. Especially items not necessary for religious accommodation as foot-washing is not a Muslim religious necessity.

All of this equals political correctness gone mad in the name of multiculturalism. It's amzing you would defend it.

Eric Stoller said...

"Completely nuts." - Is that how you feel or is it your take on my comment?

It would seem to me that Christian students received a lot of privileges in the past and the issue is that those privileges are slowly being eroded to make for a more equitable experience for all students. Giving up unearned privileges is never easy and growing pains should be expected.

How is the placement of the ten commandments in courthouse lobbies the same as installing a basin a restroom? This doesn't really seem like a logical comparison.

And I highly doubt that you have done your homework about what is and what is not a "Muslim religious necessity." Try telling that line to the thousands of Muslim students who wash their feet everyday in sinks.

By the way, by naming something as "politically correct" you diminish its importance by relegating it to a lower place and further marginalize those who have a lot less privilege than you -- a heterosexual white guy working on a grad degree.

Of course I would defend it, why wouldn't I?

I went to Northern Iowa, grew up on a farm, lived on a gravel road, etc. and I feel that it necessary to be a social justice activist.

PS: Have you gotten around to reading Janet Helms' theory of white identity yet? It's a good read on privilege and identity awareness.


Michael Faris said...

Like Eric, I would say that these two (Christmas music and foot-washing basins) are not analogous.

In the case of Christian music, it does not make either education easier or life easier, but is a case of celebratory music. The equivalent would be playing the celebratory music of another religion on campus.

With foot-washing basins, the university is making it easier for Muslim students to live and learn on campus. This would be akin to serving fish either instead of or in addition to meat on Fridays for Catholics; serving Kosher food for practicing Jews in the dining halls; or serving meat substitutes for vegan and vegetarian students. It's valuing different ways of living without authorizing one as better or more valid than the rest.

radar said...

"Completely nuts" is my take on your comments. Foot washing basins, the ten commandments in courthouses, and Christian music are all the same things - religiously themed. Public universities are constitutionally restricted from supporting any of them.

I have done my homework - as should you. However, regardless of whether foot washing is a necessity or a religious tradition in Islam public universities cannot use public funds to support it.

By using the term "politically correct" I am bringing to light the fundamental inequity inherent in relegating "improvements" in status to one group at the expense of others. Yes, Catholics can get fish on Fridays in public schools; however, if you start to install separate cafeterias or separate utensils for Catholics and Jews that's where things get unconstitutional.

My knowledge of Helms, Cross, D'Augelli, Evans, "white privilege" and others is extensive. Do not assume a difference of opinion with ignorance.

Mr. Stoller, what happens when the Muslim students you support speak out against and LGBT event? What if they protest school funds being spent on LGBT services? What if the LGBT community protests the sinks and asks for gender neutral bathrooms? Which one of the oppressed groups are you going to side with?

Eric Stoller said...

I think the last time someone called me "Mr. Stoller" was when I was on a panel...

Anyway, I digress...

Michael's comment seems to have been music, 10 commandments installations, and foot basins are associated with religion but surely you cannot see them as the same things.

Is fish on Fridays a privilege for Catholic folks? (personal disclosure, i was born and raised Catholic) It would seem that Michael's comment is validated given the support for Catholic folks on Fridays during Lent.

I'm glad that you have read works by those authors. How did Janet Helms' theory make you feel?

"Mr. Stoller, what happens when the Muslim students you support speak out against and LGBT event? What if they protest school funds being spent on LGBT services? What if the LGBT community protests the sinks and asks for gender neutral bathrooms? Which one of the oppressed groups are you going to side with?"

It is fascinating to me how you lump all Muslim students into a group, "the Muslim students." Polarizing groups makes it easier to divide versus recognizing the dynamics of identity. I would meet with the students who were protesting and listen to what they had to say. Most gender neutral restrooms are single stall units so I'm guessing that the LGBT community would be super thrilled to have gender neutral restrooms that had wash basins in them. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a hierarchy of oppression. Racism, sexism, religious discrimination, homophobia, heterosexism, ableism, etc. are all equally bad. I value maintaining everyone's dignity. Homophobia exists in all communities and in your example, it would be wrong for students to discriminate against LGBT students and vice versa. Plus, don't forget that being a Muslim and being a member of the LGBT community are not disparate identities.

What's going to happen when you are employed as a student affairs practitioner at a institution that does not consist of white male, heterosexual Christian students?

How will you support students who are not in the dominant paradigm?

What are you going to do when a job description lists a commitment to promoting and enhancing diversity as one of the core qualifications?

I'm very curious to see how you frame your ideological viewpoints in conjunction with our field in which we support all students. Especially since one of your grad programs core values is a "commitment to inclusiveness."

radar said...

No one's comments have been ignored. ALL religious accommodations are unconstitutional at public institutions. I have said this three times now.

Helms theory didn't make me feel anything. It's a theory on racial human development. It had some interesting insights to the human experience, as did the other theorists I mentioned. Also, condescension from you isn't necessary to make a point. I think you are again confusing a difference of opinion with ignorance.

What am I going to do at an institution that doesn't have white heterosexual Christian students? When you find a college like that let me know. As for me, I know for sure I will never work at an institution that accepts my conservative beliefs. I feel almost sorry for you in that if you stay in higher education you will always be surrounded by people who think exactly the same as you do. Diversity of thought is not highly prized in education.

I will easily be supportive of diverse students. However, I will not limit my support of students to those you consider to be oppressed. Diversity extends long past the color of your skin or your sexual orientation. Since you've stalked Miami's program web site, you'll see "creative controversy" listed there as well. It's something I encourage you to look into.

Oh, and do you know a Muslim student that identifies as LGBT? What was that you said earlier about doing your research?

Michael Faris said...

I think Eric's question for you might have been better worded:

What's going to happen when you are employed as a student affairs practitioner at a institution that does not consist of solely white male, heterosexual Christian students?

I'm confused by some of what you've written. You state that all religious accommodations are unconstitutional. The wording of the first amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." While court decisions have extended this beyond "Congress" to include all governmental institutions, there isn't a word about making accommodations and making learning environments more conducive to a diverse student populace.

Your question about marginalized groups whose interests contradict each other is an important area to explore. In the case of the taxi drivers you link to in another post (the article is no longer there, so I couldn't read it), it seems pretty clear that refusing service to someone because they are differently abled or non-heteronormative is similar to Southerners refusing to serve African Americans in restaurants (though Muslims certainly lack the institutional power that white people in the South had; I don't mean to equate the two events), and the courts ruled in that case that it was unconstitutional. People have the right to certain beliefs, certainly, but they don't have the right to unjustly discriminate.

As to your question about Muslims who are LGBTQ-identified, and what appears (unless I read your comment wrong) your assumption that they do not exist, this is a bit of a fallacious claim. It totalizes Islam into one belief system that would be akin to claiming that there are no Christian LGBTQ-identified folks. Do I personally know any LGBTQ-identified Muslims? Not that I am aware of, but that does not negate their existence.

Next, I would add that I doubt Eric ever works in an institution where everyone thinks like he does. You are right that there is a variety of types of diversity outside of identity groups, including ways of thinking. Eric will most certainly work with a people who have a broad scope of ideological, emotive, and modal ways of thinking (e.g., spatial thinkers, interpersonal thinkers, extroverts, introverts, etc.).

Also, I'm curious about your choice of the word "stalked" in regards to Eric's research on your graduate program. This seems to be a loaded word meant to pathologize his research and dismiss it as an invalid action, and I'm wondering why you don't feel this research is valid.

radar said...

My final thought on this post: As far as Eric "stalking" me I used the term very specifically. Indeed, I post anonymously and have at times hesitated from posting items that would allow my identity to be known. As a conservative in a student affairs graduate program my anonymity is the only thing that guarantees my continued ability to have an outlet for my thoughts that are considered insane by a number of my colleagues. To go to the web site of my program and look up its core values is undoubtedly an attempt to find out who I am, and if my anonymity is compromised my ability to blog in this forum is as well. I'm sure you can understand the danger of being "outed" if you do not wish it.

Eric Stoller said...

I actually asked a friend of mine who received his CSP degree from Miami University about the structure of your program. The program that I attended has a list of competencies that we use to define our experience. One of the competencies in OSU's program is "Multicultural awareness, knowledge and skills". I had wondered as to whether or not a similar component existed in the MU program...

It is true that I have visited the MU website and the CSP site which includes student biographies. The likelihood of there being more than one white guy who graduated from ISU is highly unlikely. I don't feel that your blog is very anonymous given your posts which when woven together form an identifiable persona. Especially when an individual who is familiar with higher ed grad programs finds your site.

The similarities of our experience are humongous. I grew up on a farm in Columbus Junction, IA. My dad has sold feed for livestock for 30+ years. I was born and raised Catholic. I have been in a lot of tractors. I was married when I was your age. (Sorry dude, your MySpace account lists your age/marital status) I feel like we have a lot of commonalities of experience. I would like to continue our conversations. It is difficult to hear the emotional voice of a blog comment.

I'm sorry about my question regarding Janet Helms. I sincerely am glad that you have read her theory and I truly wanted to know how her ideas made you feel. When I read Janet Helms I got really pissed off. I was just curious about your reactions... I was not trying to sound condescending...

Also, I would love to hear about how you have supported LGBT and/or Muslim students. I feel that the tone of your blog is very anti-Muslim as well as anti-LGBT. I realize that your position as a conservative in student affairs probably puts you in the minority in most professional situations. Are you able to voice your views without harming the dignity of anyone? It would seem to me that those in oppressed groups usually have a great deal of empathy for other folks who are in oppressed groups. The shared experience of oppression brings forth commonalities which allow for empathy and understanding. For example: Folks of color who are homophobic might be able to understand the damage done to LGBT folks when homophobia/heterosexism is compared to racism/white supremacy.

Michael - Thanks for commenting and for clarifying my comment. The insertion of "solely" definitely adds clarity to my query.

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