Gender segregation. These two generally inconspicuous words have come into the negative limelight of late to a startling degree. And, they have done in the context of Islamic events at University campuses.
It is shocking and a patent absurdity for any government figure to negatively dismiss a religious practice for religious groups in any institution. However, David Cameron, the Prime Minister for all citizens of the UK, felt it necessary to weigh in on the matter and express is disapproval thereby marginalising a large majority of Muslims who practice gender segregation. The spotlighting of this incredibly trivial practice has come from the ZionCon department. Head over to Loon Watch for a thorough expose. For David Cameron to make such a statement seems rather hypocritical as he himself was schooled in Primary and Secondary education in boys-only schools. If gender segregation in an academic environment is so problematic, as this seems to be crux issue then why do all studies comparing co-education and single-sex education indicate to better academic performance for the latter? And why were David Cameron and eighteen other UK prime ministers schooled in a single-sex school? Perhaps it was so that they could focus on the subject at hand and achieve higher? And finally, is it discrimination to prevent a girl from going to a boys only school? If it is than this needs to be certainly tackled first, before a gender-segregated religious event at a University can be regarded as “risking discrimination”. If it is not then an event or a lecture which caters for both sexes equally most certainly cannot be thought of coming any where near “risking discrimination”.
In an article in the Spectator, Kate Maltby, a self-proclaimed practising Christian conservative, attempts to refute this argument by stating that at that stage students are undergoing sexual development, that different students mature at different stages and that this is a huge distraction (see Audio recording in the blog at 5 minutes). Firstly, she refutes herself in her own argument – people mature mentally at different ages – some far beyond the age of 18, should they too be continued to be segregated? Secondly Eton College for instance, the educational institute at which our Prime Minister was schooled in, is boys-only till the age of 18. Are 18 year olds not responsible enough to be deemed adults? As if those very desires and thoughts which start fermenting in adolescense do not continue into adulthood. One simply needs to go to student parties to witness their sexual development at full tilt! Anyone who has attended university knows that a number of students usually drop out of the course after the first year due to poor grades. This was most certainly the case in my first year of Law.
It can also be argued that by influencing responsible university bodies to force students to sit in an intermingled fashion is a gross intervention on the part of the government and disturbing development. Those Muslim students who do wish to sit in a segregated fashion will be denied the freedom to do so and perhaps may not even attend the event or lecture. A form of discrimination no less.
Finally, despite all the noise, I cannot see any concrete argument against Islamic Societies choosing to segregate a gathering, nor is there any marginalisation, or any form of subversion of a particular group or individual. At most it may be regarded as distasteful by individuals but no real justification, no underlying ratio decidendi, a raison de etre has been provided. All we have is assertions upon assertions and perhaps some more emotionally charged assertions. For instance, in the Guardian article, Michael Gove is quoted to have said the following:
“There is an issue around speakers who are invited into universities,” it said. “He doesn’t think that guest speakers should be able to address segregated audiences and he thinks that Universities UK should urgently review its guidance.
“There is an important issue around principle and possible risks around discrimination. I think [Cameron] feels very strongly about this.”
The spokesman made it clear that the PM wanted a ban on gender-segregated audiences on campus even where men and women voluntarily separated themselves.
“He doesnt think” guest speakers should address segregated audiences? And? Any reasons provided? Apart from the “possible risk of discrimination”, which is as ambiguous as the Prime Minister himself and which has already been shown above to be a sham reason, and besides him feeling “strongly” about it (an emphasised assertion) we have no clear reason to deny students the right to have their events segregated. The fact that he wanted a ban even where men and women chose to sit separately sounds somewhat despotic.
Kate Maltby v Fatima Baraktullah
Kate Maltby describes herself as a practising Christian. All the more important as she attacks Islam with the usual rhetoric of “stoning, maiming and beating”. Perhaps she, as a practising Christain needs to look at her own religious text which proclaims that women when praying should cover their hair and those who do not, should have it shaven off (1 Corinthians 11:5-15).
Ignoring her blatant bigoted prejudice against Islam in her blog and in my attempt to find some solid arguments she may provide, I notice that she draws attention to the fact that segregating by gender draws our attention to it. In of itself this is a non issue. Does having a preference for a mixed gathering suggest you are transgender? It is a fallacious argument. She then goes onto claim that having segregation is discriminatory to transgender individuals. Transgenders assign themselves to a gender which may not reflect their biological assignment or who feel that it is a false description of them. Therefore if in the scenario a transgender was to attend a gender segregated event, then they would go into that section which they would most ascribe to. In fact this occurred when I ran an event a long time ago on University campus. The individual was asked whether he was comfortable and he confirmed that he had no issues whatsoever with the set-up.
Furthermore, iERA for instance have highlighted that they do in fact have a mixed seating for families and others who may feel more comfortable in such an environment. Therefore, even this contention of gender spotlighting as a result of segregation does not hold any weight. This is affirmed by the fact that Kate Maltby does not really offer any real response to this in her discussion with Fatima Barkatulla.
Fatima, quite rightly highlighted that public toilets are in fact segregated and though the difference between segregated talks and segregated public conveniences is that in one a persons intelligence is being exposed as opposed to genitals (as Maltby states in her strawman argument), the underlying rationale remains valid: a transgender is being forced into accepting to be either male or female through the use of the toilets. People will still be able to see the individual being classified as he or she opens the door and enters the public convenience. After all, all humans excrete, why should we be separated from other members of the human species? Why is gender determining which toilet we use?
Having written the above, and then reading it, it sounds so trivial and pathetic; a non-issue perhaps, rather in keeping with the whole fiasco. The truth is that after listening to her on the radio I thought she may offer something more in her blog; after all radio interviews can be daunting. But Kate Maltby had to stagger her mind and rather weakly protest her ill-conceived arguments – if one can even call them that. My message to her: try harder and attempt to find cohesive reasoning before lambasting a religion or an organisation. If this is her opinion, I respect her to have her opinion. Hold a lecture and adhere to your opinion I say, however do not force this opinion down the throats of others and attempt to make the lives of Muslims difficult.
The NeoCon Student Rights Organisation
The right-wing ZionCon, bigotted Student Rights organisation boldly produced a report calling it “REPORT: Unequal Opportunity – Gender Segregation on UK University Campuses”. It then proceeded to name all the Universities and Islamic events which were segregated followed by each University’s policy on equal opportunities. If both sexes have visibility of the lecturer and both sexes have equal opportunity to ask questions and partake in the event, where is the discrimination? Again, there is NO legitimate evidence or reasoning to support the claim of unequal opportunity. All this does is place undue pressure on Muslims to let go of their beliefs and practices due to the epistemologically biased assertions and incoherent rationale of the Neocons.
This Islam bashing needs to stop. It is a bigoted attack on Islam and nothing more. I can say with full conviction that was this practice wholesale in the Jewish community then no one would dare raise a contention. Rather like the issue of slaughtering animals for Halal and Kosher meat, this issue would simply die away never to be heard of again. The truth is that this is an attack on a minority’s right to practice its faith peacefully without infringing on anyone else’s right. And it should be categorised as such.
Muslim organisations, lobbies and groups must take a firm, strong stand against this and let all bodies know that this is a practice which affects a large minority and will impede their right to practice their faith if there is any action prohibiting such a legitimate practice. No one is being forced to attend Islamic gatherings and those who find it offensive may leave the event along with their prejudices. The Neocon lobby will twist and shout about such issues till their hearts are content, but the truth is that an Everest is being made out of a sand particle to continue their crusade against Islam. Nevertheless, the Truth shall always remain firm and their false assertions will be exposed for Allah says,
And say: “Truth has (now) arrived, and Falsehood perished: for Falsehood is (by its nature) bound to perish.” (al-Qur’an, 17:81)