Muslim prayer, misogyny, and Ruse’s ambitendencies

July 16, 2011 • 5:48 am

Over at EvolutionBlog, Jason Rosenhouse alerts us to a new post by Michael Ruse on his Chronicle of Higher Education site: “Prayer, menstruation, and the Toronto District school board.”  Ruse’s nominal topic is the fact that Muslim religious dictates are creating a bad situation in Toronto’s public schools.  Since Muslims are required to pray five time a day, several of those prayers must take place in school.

The thing is, though, that menstruating girls aren’t allowed to join the boys in prayer, although they can at other times.  Here’s a photo, from an editorial in the Star, showing two forms of segregation: the boys are bowed in prayer in the first rows, and the non-menstruating girls are praying behind them (I’ve seen this segregation in mosques many times).  And behind them all, not praying, is a group of girls having their periods:

Now I’m not sure that Canada has anything like our First Amendment, forbidding public prayer during school hours, but they do have a gender-equity policy in schools, which is being shamelessly violated in two ways: girls must pray behind the boys, and can’t pray at all when they’re “unclean.”  The Toronto District school board won’t intervene, and Ruse rightly calls them out for their cowardice.

Does any accommodationist want to defend this despicable religious practice?  It’s not limited to Muslims, either: I’m ashamed to say that in many Orthodox Jewish synagogues, women can’t pray on the main floor with the men, but are segregated in the rear, often behind screens.  And Orthodox women must immerse themselves in a ritual bath at the end of their periods. This, of course, is all based on Jewish law, and justified by the Old Testament.

This is why Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom (coauthors before their unfortunate schism) called their book, Does God Hate Women?  If you go by religious scripture and practice, the answer, of course, is “yes.” Talk about misogyny! But you’ll rarely hear accommodationists raise their voices against such practices—they’re too busy criticizing atheists.

What is curious about this article, though, is that Ruse, the walking definition of accommodationism, starts off his piece like this:

There are days when, I swear to God, I am all set to enroll under the banner of Richard Dawkins and anathematize all religions and those who subscribe to them.  I take a lot of criticism from my fellow atheists, including my fellow Brainstormers, for arguing that science and religion are compatible.  I still think that, but increasingly I cannot for the life of me see why any decent human being would want to be religious, and increasingly I think one should be ashamed to be religious.

Jason thinks that’s an excellent statement, and it is, but what about Ruse’s other days? For on the very page where he proclaims this, he also mentions his new book, Science and Spirituality: Making Room for Faith in the Age of Science.  I haven’t yet read this book, but it seems to push the kind of NOMA accommodationism Ruse has customarily espoused, as in his earlier book Can a Darwinian be a Christian? (see my TLS review here). One review of Science and Spirituality summarizes Ruse’s thesis:

It seems likely that he also prefers most or all of the Gospel miracles to be naturally explained (people were shamed into sharing their private picnic baskets, rather than that Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, and Jesus’s disciples were weirdly encouraged and enlivened by his execution rather than that he really rose from the dead), though he acknowledges that many Christians take a stronger line. He also acknowledges that some Christians (and other believers) think “natural theology” (that is, the use of reason to uncover divine truths) is possible and even obligatory, but himself prefers to present Christian beliefs as based entirely “on faith”, with only the proviso that they do not contradict the results of “science” (that is, the use of reason to uncover truths about this world here). . . The point of Ruse’s volume is presumably to persuade believers that they need not be opposed to the scientific enterprise and unbelievers that they need not be so vitriolic in their condemnation of “religion”.

As he so often does, Ruse seems to be enabling faith here, in the sense of trying to tell Christians how to forge a theology consistent with science.  But this strategy is completely at odds with his statement that “I cannot for the life of me see why any decent human being would want to be religious, and increasingly I think one should be ashamed to be religious.”  I doubt he expresses that sentiment in his new book.  And if that’s what he really believes, why does he devote so much time trying to help religious people keep their faith?

To paraphrase a review of a book by Dick Lewontin, Ruse is not so much sitting on the faith/science fence as he is pirouetting on it.  It’s hard to praise him for the good stuff that comes out of his mouth when it’s immediately followed by nonsense.

180 thoughts on “Muslim prayer, misogyny, and Ruse’s ambitendencies

  1. It’s hard to get inside someone’s head, especially with so little to go on, but it’s possible that what you are observing is that Ruse is reevaluating his accomodating position and is starting to waver.

    The only way to tell for sure is to watch for awhile and see where he takes it. L

    1. I watched a recent redit interview with Sam Harris and he was asked the question if what he was doing had any impact on non-believers.

      He said yes but it typically never happens in real time and people are not comfortable with changing their position on an issue in public.

      Of course Ruse does not have the option of changing his position in private so we may be seeing an analogous process.

  2. While the accommodationists waste their time and energy trying to defend religion against the gnus, they fail to remember that the central point that gnus are always going on about is not the incompatibility of religion and science, but the incompatibility of religion and democracy. The whole burden of their complaints is that we must somehow go out of our way to accommodate these strange “cultures”. And here we see exactly why the shoe is on the other foot. If we don’t insist that religions adapt to secular democracy we might as well give up trying to establish and defend individual human rights.

    1. True, Gordon, and while were at it how about a real separation of church and state by eliminating tax exemptions to religious groups.

    2. Yes to that, and we’ve already seen this kind of giving up actually happen countless times within the United Nations. The two notions you bring up (incompatibility of religion with science and with democracy) go hand in hand. Religion is not compatible with science because it is founded and sustained on arbitrary BS that in turn supports religious laws and rituals that contravene democratic ideals and establishments.

    3. Disagree.

      Religion and democracy are orthagonal. There is nothing mutually exclusive about religion and democracy, unlike religion and science, which have different means of accessing truth.

      And to argue that religion and democracy are inherently contradictory is a particularly imprudent strategy, bound to cause justified blowback and justifiably so. Freedom of religion is Constitutionally protected, like it or not.

      What IS incompatible is democracy and theocracy, but that is a very different topic than the practice of religion.

      1. Oops. Please feel free to drop one of those ‘justifiably’s’ and trade it in for a pack of chewing gum.

      2. There is nothing mutually exclusive about religion and democracy

        Yes, there is. Religious teachings run counter to many of our democratic freedoms: to have sex outside marriage, to marry someone of the same sex, to grant rights of self-determination to women, to regard women as equal to men, to protect women from abuse, forced marriage, and imprisonment within their homes. We continually see religious believers refusing to fulfil their legal duties because those duties run counter to their beliefs. Such people consider that the right to discriminate against others is sanctioned by divine law, which trumps man-made law.

        It is clear that if people are to be allowed freedom of belief by law, that freedom must only be permitted to operate within certain limits. Religion can only be consistent with democracy to the extent that believers are prepared to adapt their beliefs and customs to fit in, and they are unlikely to do this unless they are forced to do so by determined opposition by society. The distinction you make between the practice of religion and theocracy is not very meaningful, because extremely devout believers are already living under theocracy (they follow God’s laws), which is why we have this problem.

      3. You know, in math, you can cut an orange so ultra-fine that you can build a dyson sphere around the sun with it.

        In real life you have to deal with the properties of real oranges, not imaginary oranges that can be sliced infinitely thin, and you can’t.

        Such it is with religion and democracy. I can IMAGINE a religion that encompassed all equally and offended none, save those who can be offended by mere existence of something… Yet I’ve never seen one, not even the Unitarians, of whom I was a member.

  3. But his Chronicle article is only good in a limited sense. It’s not so much that menstruating girls don’t get to pray; it’s that opportunities for prayers are permitted in any public institution. If Islam cannot adapt itself to secular life, then Islam does not belong in the context of democratic polities which are based on the presumption of secularism. Trying to sanctify time, and order it in a religious way, is the first step towards imposing religion on others. This should be forbidden. Religious people may practice their religion in private, but it has no place in the public sphere, and to suppose that everyone must adjust to Muslim ways of doing things is unacceptable, in my view, and should be discouraged in very possible way. But to allow a few Muslim kids to allow themselves to be seen as in some sense devout in the context of school is simply out of order, menstruating girls or not. This stinks.

    1. I feel strongly about non-establishment of religion generally and monotheist/theism in particular. I disagree with you, and apparently also with Jerry, that the non-establishment principle is violated by schools accommodating voluntary student religious practices generally, and by allowing utilization of empty rooms for daily prayers as described in this particular instance. I agree here with Ruse, these kinds of accommodations to free exercise by the students do not compromise the state’s impartiality and thus should be, and in fact in the United States are, legal. Furthermore, in the United States, it will probably be legal to allow such discrimination against females in a voluntary free exercise context in government buildings, including in public schools. This fits the description of pooping on the living room carpet, it may be bad behavior, but its not illegal, and in my opinion it should not be illegal.

      1. For voluntary practices in empty rooms, I’d tend to agree. It doesn’t particularly involve or interfere with the state’s work. Though if it does, that’s different.

        1. This is a tricky problem.

          If it were financially and physically possible, the thing to do would be to provide a few minutes of “free” time for every student at the times that Muslim students are required to pray and allow anyone who wants to spend the time praying to do so, provided that they do this in private – preferably somewhere where others cannot see them arriving, praying or leaving. This gets rid of the public pressure children brought up in a religion might feel to be seen to be performing as socially required. It also gets rid of the anti-female discriminatory practice of the rituals.

  4. My question here is… what difference does it make? Yes, having these prayers in public places like schools is a problem, but beyond that, aren’t we talking about freedom? Freedom of religion? Freedom to practice as you wish? No one is holding a gun to these girl’s heads and telling them to get to the back of the bus, they have adopted the religion on their own and are following it’s dictates. We may find those dictates distasteful, but they have to have the right to practice as they see fit If their religion requires that they do this, then they do this or violate the tenets of their religion. Who are we to insist that they go against their religious beliefs to make us feel better?

    1. We don’t know what pressure is brought to bear on individual girls, and as these are children it doesn’t seem right to assume that they have freely chosen.

      No one is saying that people can’t practise their religion, only that religion must be a private matter.

      The freedon to practise one’s religion is unexceptionable. The freedom to practise one’s religion as one wishes is not.

    2. Trying asking yourself this.

      Suppose instead of discriminating against women a religious group discriminated against people who do not have white skin. Further suppose that group is allowed to hold prayer sessions in schools. Do you really think it would be reasonable to allow them to do so ?

      1. I already said practicing religion in schools is a problem, no one disputes that. However, the public display of religion in school isn’t what this article is about, it’s segregation. I don’t think any religion ought to have free reign to practice in public schools, regardless of their beliefs.

          1. Whether I see anything wrong with it is irrelevant. They have a right, within their culture, to do so. It’s funny how some people espouse freedom, but only when it’s the freedom they personally favor.

            1. OK, you see nothing wrong with kids being taught that they are second class citizens.

              You do not seem to be a very pleasant person. Just to make you feel all nice and tolerant you will have people do nothing to put and end to discrimination. That is disgusting. How selfish can you be ?

              1. Matt: “OK, you see nothing wrong with kids being taught that they are second class citizens.”

                Cephus: “Whether I see anything wrong with it is irrelevant. They have a right, within their culture, to do so.”

                Matt, you seem to have a problem with reading.

                Like Cephus, I don’t see how the rules of democracy allow us to dictate what people can and can’t be taught on their own time. …Unless you want to argue that this is a form of child abuse – in which case, simply state that that is what you’re arguing.

              2. I will ignorer you insult

                Cephus seems to think that because something is “cultural” it becomes beyond criticism.

                Well he is wrong and dangerously so.

                Remember we are talking here about children, not adults, and we are talking about an activity that takes place in school during the school day.

                Many civilised countries have laws in place to prevent discrimination against groups who have been historically discriminated against. Women, blacks and gays all come to mind. In many cases it is illegal for organisation to discriminate against these groups even if the organisations in question are private ones. In the case in question, there are laws in Canada that prevent discrimination against women in schools. The law it seems is being ignored.

              3. Many civilised countries have laws in place to prevent discrimination against groups who have been historically discriminated against.

                For example, a barber here in the States who suggests to a would-be customer that the barber doesn’t do a good job with “that type” of hair is in for a world of legal hurt, especially if “that type” is short, dark, and curly and sprouting from dark skin.

                Wedding photographers who have a pattern and history of turning down dark-skinned clients have been sued out of business. (That one never made any sense to me. Do you have any idea how much fun you can have as a photographer when you’ve got a whole palette of skin tones to play with?)



              4. @Matt: My “insult” was making a point that your criticisms were not in line with what Cephus was actually saying. Your attacks on Cephus’ character served no purpose other than to demean, when the conversation was (potentially) not even finished yet.

                I originally thought Cephus was saying “Muslims don’t have a right to do this in school, though they do have a right to do this on their own time”, which is true. I thought you and Grania were finding fault with Cephus for this. I did not think Cephus was saying that religious practices were beyond criticism. However, the quotes of Cephus’ that you posted below have made me doubt my previous interpretation.

                My belief is that we always have the right to criticize and offend, and there are many cases in which it’s better to do so than be silent.

                I disagree with Cephus if he/she believes otherwise. I’m honestly not sure what to make of Cephus’ comments at this point, but I apologize to you and Grania for emotionally telling you were wrong, when you might actually be right.

              5. But hair type proficiency seems like a legitimate professional concern for a barber.

                As professionals, barbers are expected to be competent in all aspects of their job, and that includes cutting all styles of hair.



            2. If my culture condones slavery, then it’s ok?

              I think not. Try again. This time with some thinking…

              1. Sure it is. They can condone anything they want. Whether or not they actually allow it is another matter. Slavery is illegal pretty much everywhere, no matter what anyone believes. But if someone wants to claim that they think slavery is acceptable, they’re welcome to do so. Freedom of speech and all that. And you can tell them they’re wrong. You have the same freedom of speech.

    3. What do you mean “no one is holding a gun to their heads”?

      These are minors, reared in a culture to obey the authorities. Dissent is not an option for these girls. Their only hope is for their parents to opt them out of these prayer sessions; except that their parents clearly endorse this practise and prefer to opt their children in. They probably justify it in a variety of ways: it is their culture, it is the duty of every good Muslim, to not do it would lead to social ostracising.

      Just because Canada is a secular country doesn’t mean every community in it is also secular. When Ayaan Hirsi Ali was married against her will to a relative, leading to her now famous flight from Islam, her husband, believe it or not, was from Canada.

      Depending on the community you belong to, some Muslim women are not equal in Canada. The state should not be endorsing this sort of behaviour in schools, it should be criminalising it.

      1. They are equal, they simply choose not to be. All of them have the same opportunities, if they choose to take them. The fact that they are indoctrinated into a culture which encourages them not to, and in fact, may punish them for doing so, doesn’t change the fact that it’s a choice. They can walk away any time they want. They simply decide not to.

        And while I’m 100% against honor killings and the like, cultural indoctrination is something every person on the planet goes through. Just because you don’t like that particular culture, as I don’t, doesn’t give you the right to decide which cultures can indoctrinate and which cannot.

        1. We are talking about children here, not adults.

          One role a school has is to teach children that they do not have to follow the cultural norms inculcated into them by their families. The need to be taught they do not have to put up with be discriminated against.

          You would rather they were taught to shut up and not complain.

          1. You are taking buttons and sewing pillows to them.

            It is an inconceivable stretch to say that Cephus WOULD RATHER they were taught to shut up and not complain. He hasn’t said that.

            I disagree with him pretty strongly that the children have a choice about it, and that they can walk away. They can’t. He is uninformed in that regard, but that makes him wrong, not indecent.

            1. Nope, it makes him both.

              Read what he has said. I provide a quote:

              We may find those dictates distasteful, but they have to have the right to practice as they see fit If their religion requires that they do this, then they do this or violate the tenets of their religion. Who are we to insist that they go against their religious beliefs to make us feel better?

              He is indeed saying we should not criticise them. I find it hard to see how you cannot (or is it will not ?) see that.

              It is of course possible Cephus did not mean what he wrote, but if that is the case you need to address him, not me.

              1. Huh.

                You are right.

                That last question, “Who are we to insist…? does seem to suggest that we shouldn’t criticize them. He should have stopped while he was ahead.


              2. Am I wrong or is he espousing the same po-mo cultural relativism BS we often hear from a lot of people?

        2. You have a blinkered concept of choice.

          Technically yes, you can remove yourself from a community if you find it oppressive. However, it is naive in the extreme to think that that is all there is to it, problem solved.

          Have you considered what it is like to grow up and be a member of a tight-knit ultra-conservative religious community. The mere thought of doing something that would be regarded as wrong in the community’s eyes is feared and regarded as taboo.

          Moreover there are plenty of reasons why women and children don’t try to escape these communities. One is the very real fear of what will happen to them should they fail or be returned by well-meaning apologists for multiculturalism. This happens all too often – and would certainly happen in the case of a runaway child. There are multiple examples of honor-killings – even in Canda – where a woman didn’t manage to escape far or fast enough.

          Secondly, the idea of giving up your entire community is completely devastating to many people. Choosing to remove yourself from everyone you have ever loved is not a decision taken lightly. Very few would do it until life had deteriorated to an almost intolerable level. Try reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s books Nomad or Infidel and see the price you pay when you face the rest of your life with the knowledge that your family at best treat you with disappointment and fear, and possibly worse.

          Also, this issue has got nothing to do with “not liking” a particular culture. It has to do with authorities pussy-footing around a culture that is blatantly flouting the law of the land based on some idiotic fancying of that idiotic idea multiculturalism. If you don’t know what I mean, try a thought exercise:
          If a Canadian bank decided that from now onwards menstruating women had to use a separate canteen for reasons of hygiene they would run headlong into the worst PR blunder most expensive lawsuit of their existence, and so they should.

          Why on earth you think that an exception should be made in the case of religious belief is beyond me.

          1. Why on earth can’t you read?

            Cephus wrote (emphasis mine): “Yes, having these prayers in public places like schools is a problem, but beyond that, aren’t we talking about freedom? Freedom of religion? ”

            We’re all agreed here that this shouldn’t be sanctioned by the secular government. But on their own time, Muslims are free to teach whatever they wish.

            1. And according to Cephus, to do so without criticism.

              He seems to simply not care nor does he seem to have any empathy with those who are discriminated against.

              Decent people try to make the world a better place. One does not do that by keeping quiet when one sees people being discriminated against. But almost worse is telling those who do speak out to shut up. Which is what Cephus seems to be doing.

              1. No. Cephus has not said that any of these practices are beyond criticism.

                Neither has he demonstrated an absence of empathy, or that he does not care. He is not telling those who speak up to shut up.

                You have drawn improper inferences about what he actually said. This is not good thinking on your part.

              2. Let me provide some quotes, since you clearly did not bother reading what he wrote.

                They are equal, they simply choose not to be. All of them have the same opportunities, if they choose to take them.

                Who are we to insist that they go against their religious beliefs to make us feel better?

                There are just two quotes that show you are wrong.

                Oh, and just to answer his question as to who we are to tell people to go against religious beliefs? How about fellow humans who recognise bigotry when we see it

                Please ensure you are more honest in any reply.

              3. You can criticize anything you want, we have this thing called freedom of speech. Who has ever suggested that you cannot exercise your freedom of speech to say just about anything you want?

          2. Srsly. I can remember a young Amish girl in Nappanee, Indiana who worked at a restaurant where we had lunch. She was around 16, smart, very nice; the kind of person you would have high hopes for. I was alternately sad and angry for weeks at the limits that had been placed on this girls life by her religious community. And she just didn’t seem to know what had been done to her.

            These are children. They have been raised in a culture that values subservience from women. To go against that is nearly unthinkable. They have no choice.

          3. Why? I did it. Most atheists did it. We walked away from a religious culture we didn’t agree with. It can be done. It may not be easy but it certainly is possible.

          1. Or be killed by their fathers or brothers, or ostracized by the whole community and never see their family again. Easy choice.

            1. “No one is holding a gun to these girl’s heads and telling them to get to the back of the bus” – Cephus

              “The fact that they are indoctrinated into a culture which encourages them not to, and in fact, may punish them for doing so, …” – Cephus

              I also find it confusing in context that Cephus acknowledges honour killings as a real concern.

    4. And if a group of fundies want to talk in tongues during class or have communion with red vino in the gym, hey what’s the big deal. “Who are we to go against their religious beliefs to make us feel better?”

      1. So far as I understand, and correct me if I’m wrong, the prayers are done outside of class time. Let’s try for some fair analogies. If fundies want to blather at each other during recess or before or after school, more power to them.

        1. And you are happy to let them discriminate in doing so ?

          I suppose you would see nothing wrong with the KKK setting up an after school club!

              1. I think it’s quite right. Unless of course what you’re getting at is that the club activities would involve legal hunting and burning of them blacks.

    5. If someone places a sign on their lawn saying “room for rent, no blacks”, there’s nothing to stop blacks from applying for it either, is there.

      1. Discrimination against blacks has a long history, so who are we to tell people it is wrong ?


        1. Actually, it happens to be against the law, therefore they cannot do it, even if they personally think that it’s fine to do. Muslim worship rituals are not against the law.

          Please don’t tell me you can’t understand that simple distinction.

    6. They’re kids. I find it unlikely they’ve chosen the religion; they’re parents are forcing them to follow it. There are probably many who agree, but some who feel that they are being forced to follow it. The ones who disagree should have freedom of religion, too.

      I insist that they’re wrong because I went to an Islamic Sunday School once a a week for a little while, when I was younger, and I was one of the ones who disagreed with it. So, I feel sympathy for those who feel bullied into doing this. Saying they’re wrong doesn’t mean I’m taking away their rights or banning their religion.

      1. Precisely.

        Just because something is “cultural” does not mean it gets to be exempt from criticism.

        Here in the UK there is a drinking culture that results in young adults going out on a Friday and Saturday night, drinking huge quantities of alcohol and then puking, peeing and fighting in the streets at the the end of the evening.

        Cephus presumably would ask why some in the UK think such behaviour should be at the very least discouraged.

        I would add that the culture I describe does not discriminate against women. They can get drunk, puke, pee and fight as well as the men.

    7. Yes, Cephus, I agree with you. Accommodating voluntary student prayer is consistent with the free exercise clause in the United States and it is not, in any way, shape, or form, a violation of non-establishment because such an accommodation on the part of government does not involve the school in taking actions on its own initiative that favor any one religious practice or belief over others. This is very different from say, the national motto, or the Pledge of Allegiance, where it is the government, on its own initiative, that is taking actions favoring monotheism over competing/dissenting beliefs and therefore directly and blatantly violates the non-establishment clause.

    8. I don’t think it is as much of a “choice” as you might think. It is more like a socially coerced practice. If a student whose family and religious community expects them to perform certain rituals neglects to perform them, and it gets back to the parents or religious community, they will suffer. This is NOT true freedom.

  5. The school board’s feeble excuse was that the Muslim kids would simply duck out on Friday afternoons anyway. But prayer in school, including the once ubiquitous Lord’s Prayer, is now forbidden and so there’s been quite a firestorm over this issue.

    Two other bits: Not all kids of Muslim background are necessarily eager to pray and may feel intimidated into it, in which the school is complicit. And the exclusion of menstruating girls is not only objectionable per se, but a form of public humiliation. As an Ontarian, I’m outraged and embarrassed.

    1. “Not all kids of Muslim background are necessarily eager to pray and may feel intimidated into it, in which the school is complicit. And the exclusion of menstruating girls is not only objectionable per se, but a form of public humiliation.”

      Yes, exactly.

    2. No, what you said ere is mistaken, prayer by students is not forbidden in U.S. public schools and never has been forbidden. What is forbidden in public schools is the employees taking any actions that exhibit favoritism for or against any religious beliefs or practices, including organizing or directing any prayer activity. That is not happening here. Here it is students on their own initiative, not the initiative of employees, conducting prayer, and the public schools are permitted to accommodate such religious practices by students because it is a legally protected activity under the free exercise clause.

      1. It might be on the students own initiative or it might be demanded by their parents. Either way it is demonstrating that the girls are less than the boys and that the girls natural bodily function is distasteful. It is revolting to put girls in that position, if the goal is freedom for all. At a minimum the state should demand separate prayer rooms for boys and girls. However, that still reeks of the state being subservient to the religion, which shouldn’t be the case in a free society.

        Governmental laws are made and revised continuously, obviously, some laws need to be changed that haven’t been.

        What would be the difference to you if a religion demanded that the children needed to eat sandwiches made from dead relatives every two hours. No offense intended to christians that like to eat their brothers and such. Oh wait, I guess the offense was intended after all.

        1. You compare the prayer with “eat sandwiches made from dead relatives every two hours”! You don’t see that will be dismissed immediately out of hand as irrelevant and completely unreasonable? If you want to sound ridiculous then keep talking like that, but don’t claim to be representative of the opinions of atheists.

          You think this is a serious argument you are making? Go to a judge and tell him the children are compelled by their parents to pray segregated and answer the inevitable question – why the adults who were also compelled to do this as children then continue to do this voluntarily while compelling their children? The fact is that if they are compelled as children by their parents, and you must demonstrate that they are, you cannot just declare it and expect the judge to pay any attention as if you have established this as a fact, as adults they could stop and Islam would cease to exist. Children being compelled by parents has little relevance here, parents are legally permitted to compel their children to do things that their children would rather not do. Almost all parents do that.

    3. The school is not leading the students in prayer or mandating that they pray. It is simply allowing students time to perform religious rituals that are required by their particular religion. Any other student could use this time to pray to their version of god or meditate or think or play, or do whatever they like. The school is merely being pragmatic. If Muslim students or those of any other religious flavor, cannot perform the required rituals at a school they will not feel able to attend school at this time and will either play truant or will set up their own partisan school system. The last option is dangerous as it prevents religious students from mixing with students of other beliefs and students with other beliefs from mixing with them. It is a recipe for the development of ignorance, intolerance and prejudice on all sides.

  6. I’m an accomodationist about a lot of things, but the last time I attended a Jewish service where men and women where segregated, over 30 years ago, I walked out in protest.

    I refuse to participate in such practices myself.

  7. I’ve already commented about this at Butterflies and Wheels, but will just write here that I think this is wrong on two counts.

    (1) Discrimination against girls

    (2) Religion using secular schools to force kids to follow their parents religion, when it’s not necessary that the kids agree with the parents’ religion

  8. …Does God Hate Women? If you go by religious scripture and practice, the answer, of course, is “yes.” Talk about misogyny!”

    However, this was what was so radical about that penniless, itinerant preacher from Galilee. Counter to the culture of the day he had friendships with women and served and loved abused women. Contrary to popular culture women played a prominent role in the early Christian Church, including providing finance and teaching.

    Considering that in Biblical times women weren’t even permitted to testify in court, it’s remarkable that the testimony of women is recorded as being the first to witness to the resurrected Jesus. Not the kind of story you would make up if you were seeking to be plausible. Intriguing isn’t it?

    It demonstrates the unique nature of Jesus’ life and his impact on human history. Jesus would have taught from Genesis 1:26, that we are all image bearers of God, created with equal dignity, value and worth. Women are in fact the apex of God’s creation to be treated with particular honour and respect.

    My beautiful wife, who I love beyond all measure, is an amazing generous and kind woman. She is in no doubt that she is loved by her Father in Heaven, the Father to the Fatherless, who has gifted her Love, life, meaning and purpose.

    1. You should have stopped after your first paragraph.

      The rest adds nothing, and since religion is simply what people do in the name of religion1 the first para suffices.

      1 I do hope we are being rational here, and not going in for any nonsense about god being real.

    2. How do you take a few lines of Jesus acknowledging women’s existence and women having some roles in the Church into a statement that Jesus taught men and women are equal?

      I’m really tired of this argument that a religion being a tiny bit better, in one specific way, than some other religion before it means that the newer religion teaches equality. Muslims make the same argument for Islam, talking about how people would kill baby girls, since they didn’t want daughters, but Islam says not to do that. That doesn’t mean Islam or Christianity or their holy books actually support complete equal rights.

    3. I often ask first-time religious posters here, at least those who claim that there’s a “Father in Heaven,” to give the evidence that drives them to that belief. Do you mind telling us, then, why you’re so sure there’s a God, and that that God is a Christian God, and also why the Muslim faith (whose holy scriptures absolutely reject the divinity of Christ) is wrong?

    4. Good god.

      Examples of Jesus’ famous wimminz-loving ways:

      – not one single apostle was female, which is used to this very day by Christians to keep women out of the priesthood in various sects. You would think that “God” would have had the foresight to know how that was going to work out.
      – Jesus didn’t want Mary to touch him (John 20:17) before his ascension, but it was okay for Thomas to do so.
      – told a woman begging for his help that he would not “to take the children’s bread and to cast it to dogs.” Even his disciples were a little shocked by that one.
      – disrespectful to his mother in public (Mark 3:31-35)
      – never spoke out against the inequitous inheritance & property rights that left women destitute, likewise silent on forced prostitution, child brides. I guess he had his Omniscience turned off during those years or something.
      – thought that allowing a prostitute to humiliate herself publicly by washing his smelly feet with her hair was a Renaissance Man move.

      ‘Intriguing isn’t it?’

      Not really. Perhaps he already asked all his disciples and none of them were prepared to make such a statement knowing it to be false. Maybe only women who already had no status in the eyes of society could be pressured into knowingly perjuring themselves.

      ‘Women are in fact the apex of God’s creation to be treated with particular honour and respect.’
      Strangely that appears to be the exact opposite of what Christians (and Jews & Muslims) have been taught for centuries. Some how that memo must have gone missing. Rather few of Christianity’s saints and leaders seem to have got it.

      1. Thank you for the illustration. Jesus went to the cross having been maligned, misrepresented and betrayed. He faced the agony of abandonment, betrayal, torture and an agonizing death for all people groups. Muslims, Jews, agnostics, people of differing sexual persuasions, tongues, tribes and creeds, he took the punishment of death for all our sins. No matter your culture, tradition or religion, his Love remains steadfast and true.

        There is nothing the 66 books of the Bible to suggest that God is anything but just, patient, merciful and loving. Jesus spoke the Truth. He told the religious crowd that they were a wicked and adulterous generation, He loved all people and they accused of being a party animal, hanging out with drunkards and prostitutes, which he did. They couldn’t cope with Him so decided to get rid of him, not counting on the fact that he really was who He said He was.

        And now history revolves around this humble blue collar worker from a small town in the Middle East, who never commanded an army, ran for political office or was CEO of a successful company. 66 books of the Bible, recorded by around 40 authors and it’s all about Jesus.

        1. Oh, what noxious bullshit. Pure, unadulterated, toxic bullshit.

          The only saving grace of your Bible is that it’s entirely a work of fiction. For in it, your great heroes are the most horrible monsters imaginable to the human mind.

          YHWH got his rocks off with acts of genocide and biochemical warfare on a scale that would have scared the shit out of both Hitler and Stalin.

          Jesus is just chompin’ at the bit to have 99% of humanity infinitely tortured. Not just those who fail to grope his guts the way he likes, but also every man who’s ever looked at a woman, thought, “Yeah, I’d hit that,” and then failed to immediately gouge out his own eyes. Re-read your Goddamned Sermon on the Fucking Mount if you don’t believe me.

          And, just for good measure, we have Moses and his Merry Men “cleansing” an entire ethnic group, enslaving all the boys, and raping all the pre-pubescent girls. Joshua fit the Battle of Jericho, Jericho, the walls came a-tumblin’ down, and he done did murder, rape, and pillage with great abandon. As did pretty much all the other “heroes” of the Bible.

          So, yeah. I’m one of those enemies of Jesus’s that the character spoke of in Luke 19:27. He will not reign over me. I love my family; I’m far more interested in peace than swords; I have great concern for the morrow; and I will not let my enemies harm me without at least attempting to defend myself.

          That includes against you, should you think you can make a blood sacrifice out of me for Jesus’s altar.



          1. Thank you for this echo of the cultural mandate that would have us believe the Bible is fiction. I was also taught this but it turns out not to be true. In fact there is weighty historical evidence to show that the Bible is a faithful record. You don’t honestly think that its accuracy would be the subject of ongoing scholarly dispute if there wasn’t a reasonable case to be made do you?

            Jesus died for all, he simply warned that the same fate that befell the rich man, at whose gate Lazarus begged for table scrsps, awaits those who remain living in rebellion. He really upset people when he pointed out you cannot love your wife, or be a good father to a daughter if you look at another women lustfully, you’re nothing but a loveless adulterer. Tough truths that got him crucified.

            1. In fact there is weighty historical evidence to show that the Bible is a faithful record.


              No, not bullshit. Lies. The truth is exactly 180° from what you state.

              Take, for example, Matthew 27:51-53, which describes a massive zombie invasion of Jerusalem — hardly the sort of thing that would go unnoticed, don’t you think?

              Yet there exists not even a hint of a passing reference to the event anywhere else in the historical record.

              The same is the case with the Massacre of the Innocents, the Star of Bethlehem, the Magi in Herod’s court, the Census…damn, I haven’t even made it out of the Nativity narrative. Fact is, there isn’t a single bloody “fact” in the Gospels that isn’t both outrageously ludicrous and completely unevidenced.

              If it were possible to prove me worng, it’d be trivial to do so. All you’d have to do is cite the appropriate reference in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Pliny the Elder, the Roman Satirists, or any of scores of other extant first-century eyewitness accounts of the time and place. Hell, if the Bible were a “faithful record,” you wouldn’t be able to turn a page in any of those works without finding a detailed analysis.

              So, kindly take your lies for Jesus and shove them. We ain’t buyin’, and you should be ashamed of yourself for trying to foist such childish nonsense as “history.”


              1. Even IF the bible were a faithful historical record, things have changed in the last 2000 years. Science has enlightened us (somewhat) and we no longer hold on to the superstitions of old (well some of us). It was, perhaps, a tool to teach – 2000 years ago when the world view was what it was then. Today, it is as irrelevant as floppy discs.

    5. Oh, for fuck’s sake. (Pardon, Jerry.)

      This is a serious discussion, and serious people are trying to have it. There are other websites that will welcome your godbothering. Go thou, and find one. Promptly.

    6. Women are in fact the apex of God’s creation to be treated with particular honour and respect.

      This is just part of the sickness of mind that religion encourages. There is an impossible moral ideal that no one can live up to, all mixed up with men’s desire to control women as desirable property. A woman is either a whore, tempting men to carnal lusts and sin, exuding sex-appeal and leaking blood, or she is a paragon, untouchable, to be guarded and fenced in and protected from the sexual cupidity of men. Whichever she is, she is not simply a human being. These two aspects are actually just the two sides of the same coin, representing the psychotic ambivalence inherent in male dominated societies. The one compensates for the other, the one shades in and out of the other. It is a curious coincidence, if coincidence it is, that the Magdalene and the Virgin Mother had the same name.

      1. “Women are in fact the apex of God’s creation to be treated with particular honour and respect.”

        Oh lord, what next – “Freedom is slavery! Ignorance is strength!”?

        Honour and respect for women is about as antithetical to Christianity and Islam as one can get.

        Here I was thinking Newspeak & doublethink were Orwellian inventions – it was the bloody Abrahamist patriarchs all along!

  9. Does any accommodationist want to defend this despicable religious practice?

    I’ve also criticized that Muslim women pray behind the men, directly to a very urbane Muslim woman. She explained a very practical reason for this practice, of direct concern to both the men and women. She showed me the reason herself when we were in a mosque, and you can all see it for yourselves in the picture above.

    Let’s just say that for many men, it’s very difficult to keep your mind on things you should be doing, like praying, when presented with a view like the one seen above, especially when it involves motion. Several movie scenes come to mind. Having seen this for myself, I understood the good practical reasons for segregated Muslim prayer, with the men in front of the women, and withdrew my criticism.

    I’ve also witnessed segregated Jewish prayer, but the mechanics of Kewish prayer don’t raise this problem.

      1. Yes, that is possible, but without getting into some specific Dan Savage neologisms, that view is rarely of interest to the women. The opposite is not true. That’s as much as needs to be said.

        1. I still don’t see why that’s a reason to withdraw the criticism of segregation. What about having high standards of behavior for everyone (e.g. not harassing people, even if you find them attractive) instead of segregating?

          Perhaps I am taking this personally, but I’ve heard this kind of argument all the time, especially in religion: that men are inherently x, y, or z and therefore I have to be discriminated against.

          1. I don’t think it’s sailing to close to the wind to observe that certain parts of women are by-and-large sexually attractive to men. That’s why we have segregated dress codes, even in the west. Muslims have the same pragmatic reason for segregating their prayers. As the “Muslim girl” below points out, it’s traditional, not religious, and it’s not hard to see why.

            To be more blunt about it, is it good community practice to have all the women repeatedly sticking their asses right in the face of all the men, many times a day? If you’re a woman, would you want to do this yourself? Your daughter? If you’re a married man, would you want your wife or daughter to do this? How good are you at rejecting frequent, suggestive temptation, even if it’s inadvertent?

            I’m a western man, and I wouldn’t want any of these things, so it would be hypocritical of me to continue to criticize this particular tradition of segregation, which appears to me to be a pragmatic solution to an actual problem.

            1. The solution to the problem of men being distracted by having women wave their asses in their faces isn’t to move the women to the back of the bus.

              It’s to have everybody stop waving their asses in each other’s faces.

              Muslim prayer is bullshit. It’s pointless, it’s a drain on productivity, it’s corrosive to the community, and it needs to stop.

              No, no. Of course not. The state shouldn’t make it illegal — though it most certainly should (and here in the US does) forbid it from happening in a state-sponsored manner.

              The way for it to stop is for rational people to stop pretending that it’s some sort of valuable tradition.

              It’s not. It’s a bunch of people wasting their time by waving their asses in the air.

              And it’s as bad as people dressing up in sheets.

              They ought to be ashamed of themselves, and we ought to make them ashamed. If we do that, the problem will largely take care of itself.



              P.S. The only thing weekly Christian prayer has over non-stop Muslim prayer is the Christians don’t do it nearly as often and they’re not waving their asses in everybody’s faces. b&

              1. That would be another solution. But it leaves open the legitimate question of whether the Muslim practice of segregated prayer deserves criticism.

              2. Sorry if I didn’t make myself clear. Permit me to remedy that.

                Of all the reasons my Muslim prayer is a bad idea and should not be socially tolerated, the sex discrimination has to be one of the most odious.

                Institutionalized misogyny is abhorrent, repulsive, disgusting, and has no place in civilization.

                This, of course, also applies to the Catholic prohibition against women priests and the parallel Orthodox Jewish forms of discrimination.

                But, frankly, it’s a moot point, as those are side shows within larger institutions that simply need to go away altogether.

                My advice to Muslim, Catholic, and Orthodox Jewish women who are crusading to change their religions from within is not to encourage them to do so, but to stop trying to put lipstick on a turd. Get out of Stockholm already!



    1. Isn’t this the exact same argument for burkas? Basically, women have to be controlled because men can’t stop thinking about sex and shan’t be held accountable for acting on those thoughts.

      1. No. It’s the same argument for segregated dress codes. There’s no comparison between burkas and, again to be blunt about it, having all the women repeatedly stick their asses right in the face of all the men, which is pretty much what integrated Muslim prayer would involve.

        1. Please present this argument for segregated dress codes. I have a feeling it will be baseless.

          I wasn’t really asking for an answer up there; I was hoping you would recognize the similarity. This is the same argument being used for burkas: Gotta keep the women covered up so as not to tempt men::Gotta keep the women’s heinies down so as not to distract the men. Allah forbid a man have even a small amount of self control in those situations!

          1. One way to make the case for segregated dress codes listing a few of Donald E. Brown’s List of Human Universals, available in Pinker’s Balnk Slate:

            sexual attraction
            sexual attractiveness
            sexual jealousy
            sexual modesty
            sexual regulation
            sexuality as focus of interest

            So this isn’t baseless. Sexual modesty generally inludes covering your sex organs, which is why women may not generally appear topless in public. It should go without saying that the universal of sexual modesty and covering sex organs has very little to do with covering your whole body in a tent.

            If you’re for integration in Muslim prayer, please address the issues and consequences that actual Muslims raise, rather than speciously extreme arguments like burkas.

            Is it good community practice to have all the women repeatedly sticking their asses right in the face of all the men, many times a day? If you’re a woman, would you want to do this yourself? Your daughter? And this is worse than problems with segregated dress codes because there is little choice here.

            You say that you weren’t expecting an answer, or a baseless answer, which doesn’t suggest an open mind to the real-world issues raised here. How do you answer the questions above?

            1. That those things exist in most cultures does not mean that one culture’s practices regarding those things are right. So if that is your argument, then I think I am right that it was baseless.

              Sexual modesty generally inludes covering your sex organs, which is why women may not generally appear topless in public.

              How do you figure that women’s breasts are sex organs? And distinguish women’s breasts as being sex organs from men’s breasts as being sex organs in your reasoning, please.

              It should go without saying that the universal of sexual modesty and covering sex organs has very little to do with covering your whole body in a tent.

              Then what do you believe is the reason that women’s bodies or faces are covered up in the equivalent of tents (or fake full beards) in some Islamic groups.

              If you’re for integration in Muslim prayer, please address the issues and consequences that actual Muslims raise, rather than speciously extreme arguments like burkas.

              I’m not for integration of prayers. Praying should not be accommodated in public education systems–not Christian, not Muslim.

              Is it good community practice to have all the women repeatedly sticking their asses right in the face of all the men, many times a day?

              Wow. So you accuse me of making a speciously extreme argument when I didn’t (because the reasoning from burka to segregation of prayer by gender is the same according to my understanding of your own testimony), and then you claim that Muslim praying requires women sticking their rumps in the faces of all the men? FFS, man! Nobodies asses are being placed in any faces during Muslim prayers!

              If you’re a woman, would you want to do this yourself? Your daughter? And this is worse than problems with segregated dress codes because there is little choice here.

              It wouldn’t matter if I were a woman or not (I am not). I would have no problem going through a ritual where I prostrated myself in front of and behind other people in close vicinity if I were a female and in such a religion. I wouldn’t care if my daughter did that either. Your line of reasoning is absurd. And there is no choice involved where dress codes come into play. Violating dress codes results in punishment.

              1. No, you’re projecting way too much into my comment, and conflating too many issues.

                Very simply: I have spoken with Muslim women about segregated prayer. They told me specifically that they would be uncomfortable with integrated prayer because that means sticking their asses in the face of men, friends and strangers alike.

                Given that sexual modesty is a human universal, this aversion should not be very surprising to us. Right or wrong has nothing to do with it—that’s apparently how many, many people are programmed to feel. And you may be comfortable doing this, many women would not be, and that seems very unlikely to change.

                There are so many awful examples of Islamic misogyny, like the menstruation nonsense, but you may wish to consider that there are other pragmatic reasons for Muslim segregation of prayer.

                Praying should not be accommodated in public education systems

                Of course. But this has nothing to do with the original comment about segregation.

            2. The reason there are laws in some countries prohibiting women from appearing topless has nothing to do with practicality, nor is it a reasoned approach based on evidence. It is a remnant of a prudish past where sex of any kind was viewed as dirty and sinful and where our bodies were something to be ashamed about.

              Many European countries have had topless or even fully nude beaches for a long time and guess what happens, people adapt. Very quickly. That’s why men aren’t driven into sexual frenzies when we see mini skirts, bikinis, tube tops or any of the other clothes which are common today but which would have scandalized American society 100 years ago.

              Maybe some men would get driven into a frenzy by seeing women kneel. You know what makes that better? Seeing more women kneel. It makes it ordinary, everyone adapts. Bundling women in sacks, stuffing them in the back of buildings, segregating them off from society hasn’t helped them one iota, it just makes even small glimpses of ordinary behaviour seem illicit which, in itself, creates heightened arousal.

              So we can go two ways: cut women out of society or we can integrate them and allow them to dress as they chose, including full public nudity. There are countries which are doing this already. We can see the results and we don’t need to deal with hypotheticals. The results seem clear: integration works.

              1. This is utopian.

                Clearly many women would be uncomfortable with integrated prayer for this reasons stated.

                Given that sexual modesty is a human universal, this aversion should not be very surprising to us, and appears unlikely to change, regardless of bathing habits at San Tropez.

              2. What bullshit. If women can go somewhere (a beach, a church, the office) and have the personal freedom do decide for themselves how to dress and who to talk to, then they can be modest. If one woman wishes to cover herself, she has the freedom to do so, if not then she can dress as she chooses.

                When someone else is controlling your clothing and who you speak with, that’s not modesty, that’s sexism and misogyny.

            3. “If you’re for integration in Muslim prayer, please address the issues and consequences that actual Muslims raise, rather than speciously extreme arguments like burkas.”

              Well, I don’t agree with the prayers either way (segregated or not) and I don’t think the comparison to burkas is specious. As others have pointed out, the same bad argument about men not being able to control themselves is used for burkas.

              But if you want to stay on the topic of women in the payer: As someone who’s actually participated in these prayers in the past, and who’s experience the different treatment towards women, I’d be less concerned about my body position and more concerned about what the men and boys were being taught about how to treat women. In other words, my reason for being concerned about any sexual thoughts a guy would be having about me would be based on knowing that, in a particular religious class or denomination, that guy is being taught that his sexual attraction is sufficient reason to mistreat me. I have to wonder how many of the women who say that they would feel uncomfortable praying in front of men feel that way because they’ve been taught that they should expect bad treatment from men, and they know that if men treat them badly, religious leaders will excuse it.

              1. If male urges are the problem should not men be blindfolded rather than women covered? Sure it might be a bit of a hindrance at first, but I’m sure they’d get used to it.

    2. Let’s just say that for many men, it’s very difficult to keep your mind on things you should be doing, like praying, when presented with a view like the one seen above, especially when it involves motion.

      That’s as insulting and demeaning towards men as it is towards women.

      It’s the same idiotic, puerile argument for burkas and punishing women when they get raped – men can’t help think about sex when they see women, I dunno, move. Because bowing is soooooo sexy, it would distract men from God!

      1. It’s also the same idiotic, puerile argument lechers, catcallers and other harassers of women use to justify their actions. It’s practically the official motto of sexism.

      2. Maybe that means that the men’s faith is so weak, they should do something else than waste their time praying to thin air.

        It seems to me that the whole argument could be settled by acknowledging that women and men find each other attractive, that sex (or thought of) are not wrong, and no big deal, and that they can look at someone, be attracted to them, and then go on about their business.

        The whole “women waving their asses in their faces” strikes me as coming from someone with issues of their own.

        1. As I said, I also have criticized this practice, but stopped after listening to what actual Muslim women told me and saw what they meant for myself.

          1. The problem is is that they have been raised in the same “intellectual” climate that makes it uncomfortable for them. If we change the environment, we can change the indoctrination and make it a non-issue, as others have explained above. It’s all about changing them from a prudish, degrading view of themselves and others into a more open, 21st century view.

            As anthropologists have shown, standards of modesty vary from burkhas and shame to public nudity and even public sex. I say go for the most free standards, and people will adapt – except for the hidebound and those blinded by religious dogma – but over time hopefully they will die out. It’s worked with a lot of things (Western dress and attitudes towards interracial and homosexual marriage are examples).

          2. If the problem is ‘women waving their asses in men’s faces’, better solutions would be
            – having men on one side of the room and women on the other, rather than women behind the men; or
            – have the men pray wearing blindfolds, if their faith is that damn weak they can’t keep their minds on the prayers.

            Anyway, even granted that this is the reason, then the reason for segregating menstruating females is. . . ?

            1. Who is having this problem? If the women have the problem then the men (and school admins) should let women sit where they want and women can chose to sit at the back if they’re uncomfortable.

              If men have a problem sitting near women then they should suck it up and cope like members of a civilized Western nation. If they have such bad thoughts then maybe they should be placed into a special room where they can receive some remedial attention for their problems. Punishing women because some men are struggling to cope with western society is perverse.

              (I’m saddened and disheartened that this is happening in Canada. I hate the all-too-American cry of “America, love it or leave it” and their jingoistic uni-culture insanity. However the view that all cultures are equal and must all be tolerated and respected is awful in its own right.

    3. Your argument seems to boils down to “men can’t keep their peckers in their pants and it’s the fault of women”.

      Plus “menstruation is icky”.

      1. Thank you, steve oberski, for bringing us back to the main issue, which is the segregation of girls who are menstruating. While I agree that sexual segregation is wrong in principle, the branding of women as unclean is intolerable. And it stems from primitive ignorance of the function of menstruation. Allah said it was a disease. The Divine Creator obviously had no idea what he was doing.

    4. Funnily enough, the exact same logic is why women are required to wear a burqa in public. After all, men find it difficult to concentrate when there’s all that female ass bobbing around outside – and just telling the men to suck it up isn’t an option, oh no.

    5. So, noone in the history of Islam ever thought of having the male & female groups side-by-side, for crying out loud, to avoid the apparently irresistible carnal temptation of a fully clothed opposite-gender arse?

      Oh no, of course – doing so would imply they’re equal. Can’t have that in an Abrahamic monotheism – might undo the whole fabric of society or annoy God or make it rain antelopes or some such ghastly thing.

  10. As a Muslim girl, I pray all the time even when I’m on my period, and I can lead a prayer, I can pray next to a boy! Problem is people say it’s Islam(Peace). No it’s not, it’s tradition! I don’t blame people how are not Muslims to not being understand/question/investigate Islam(peace) but I’m rather gutted by millions of sheep (supposedly) following it and totally going to opposite direction. If we can get these youngsters to criticise and question things like this than we can get some where. BTW I’m a huge fun of evolution 🙂

    1. Is there some diktat that compels you to write “(peace)” every time you write “Islam?” Or are you just flaunting your piety? Or do you think repetition will convince us?

      1. Only because it’s not an English word, so I wanted to translate it as we all write in English here 🙂

        1. Erm, granted I don’t speak Arabic.

          But I’ve never in my entire life heard somebody translate the word, “Islam,” as “peace.”

          I’ve always heard it translated as “surrender (to the will of Allah).”

          Now, you may well think of Islam as being peaceful or even as a force for peace — never mind that, as far as numbers go, that’s quite the minority opinion these days.

          But mistranslating the word like that only does really, really bad things to your credibility and to those promoting Islam in general.

          After all, if you’d even lie to us about the literal translation of the name you choose for yourself, why should we even pretend to trust you about anything else?



          1. I’ve always heard it as “submission”, which is close to yours. But as we’ve seen, Islam means peace…and if you don’t agree they’ll behead you.

        2. From Wikipedia:
          “The word islam is a verbal noun originating from the triliteral root s-l-m, and is derived from the Arabic verb ’áslama, which means “to give up, to desert, to surrender (to God).”[1][18] Another word derived from the same root is salaam (سلام) which means ‘Peace’.[19][20] Muslim, the word for an adherent of Islam, is the active participle of the same verb of which Islām is the infinitive. Believers demonstrate submission to God by worshipping Him, following His commands, and avoiding polytheism.”

          So there is a confusion. If this is all correct, Islam means “submission”, and needs to be distinguished from “salaam”, which I would guess comes to mean “peace” through semantic development — perhaps from the idea of giving up a quarrel or submitting to judgement.

        3. You think that we don’t know what “Islam” means? Seriously? That has to be dumbest lie I’ve ever heard. I feel hurt that you think so little of us that you aren’t trying to think of a more plausible story.

          I do like your chutzpah (audacity, nerve) though.

  11. This anti-woman crap really is not limited to Islam or the orthodox sects of Christianity or Judaism, but those do seem to have an extra crazy dose of it. When I attended the Islamic funeral of a male friend, I was taken aback at how his female colleagues were not allowed near the grave. Only men could enter the graveyard, and several women were actually stopped in their tracks and turned around by the men. I would have been pissed if that had happened to me and would have left the event in a huff, but as it was, I was already at the grave with a shovel in hand and my de facto husband at my side when I realized that women were being turned back. There have been few times in my life when I felt grief, anger, and fear all at once like that, hoping they didn’t realize we were gay…

    1. It’s all for your own good – just in case those crazy Christians are right, they want to make sure that the men are closest to the onset of the zombie uprising.

  12. Can somebody kindly explain to me the educational value of interrupting the school day a half-dozen times so a handful of kids can roll-play fantasy games that involve talking to their imaginary friends?

    I can’t be bothered to figure out which it is but either these kids are missing classes; the other kids have had their schedules messed up to accommodate the Muslims; the other classes are constantly interrupted as the Muslims enter and leave class; or the Muslims are entirely segregated. And all of those options are absolutely unacceptable in public education.

    And for the school to permit — nay, encourage — sex discrimination on its facilities!

    Say what you will about the state of the States, but there’s no way anybody could possibly pull off this kind of shit here. I’m not even sure that such sex discrimination in a private school would survive a court challenge. It might, but I wouldn’t bet on it. It certainly wouldn’t if the school received even one penny of federal funds, and I’d expect judges to bend over backwards to find some way to find for the girls even in the absence of federal funding.



    1. “Role-Play” not “roll play” – of course, it would be better if they were doing that. A little D&D or something similar would get them socialized better, stretch their imagination and maybe teach them something about, well, everything.

      Plus, I could get behind playing D&D (or the system of choice) five times a day with students.

      1. It’s kind of a funny typo, because people tend to accuse D&D of being a “roll-play” game – the claim is that the rules are so restrictive it ends up being nothing more than a framework around which you roll the dice, instead of a framework in which you play a role.

        As with all matters of opinion, it really depends on how you, uh, roll with it.

      1. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my sentiments seem to align with those expressed by the ACLU…though I can’t help but think that the ideal response would have been for the Muslim community to be more involved in the solution. The Muslim student body organizing a resource for portable foot-washing gear (such as that modern invention known as a “bowl”) springs to mind….


  13. It’s a bit of a moot point really. Even if a law were passed to say that the girls at the back have the right to pray with the boys, and that menstruating girls can also pray guess what would change? Nothing!

    The boys would still go to the front. The girls would still go behind the “optional” benches, and the menstruating girls would sit at the back.

    Because Allah said so, and Allah is the greatest.

  14. I find the indignation here amusing at times because the fact is religion appears to me to be here to stay and Darwin’s dissertation on evolution and natural selection roughly 150 years ago has yet to impact the stranglehold of religion on mankind. I suspect religious belief is a kind of evolutionary trick that produces some kind of reproductive advantage or it would have been rooted out a long time ago. Someone should do the research to find out if religious people do in fact reproduce more than the non religious or perhaps live longer, healthier lives than non religious people. If a religious system gives people a reason to coalesce around an idea and way of life that contributes to them spawning more kids then that system is going to be around for a long time even if it is entirely rooted in fiction.

    1. Religion may never entirely disappear, but it can certainly be pushed to the margins and denied an automatic voice in the public sphere.

      We know this can be done because it has been done. One only needs to look to Europe to see examples.

      1. You bring Europe up but it it is interesting that in the UK for instance the average size of a muslim family is more than twice the size of non muslims. That is – they’re reproducing substantially more than their non Muslim counterparts. This has far reaching implications over the medium to long term for the UK. Which is why I find the Catholic prohibition against contraception deceptively brilliant. Those religious folks are smarter than they get credit for. Because over the long term if Muslim or Catholic families grow in size then by sheer strength of numbers they will be able to influence public policy and decision making.

        1. I did not have the UK in mind.

          However the idea that the UK is going to be overtaken by Muslims breeding like rabbits is just bigoted Daily Mail crap. Please do not play the racism card.

          Note: In the UK a lot (but not all) hostility to Islam is based on the fact most UK Muslims come from the Indian Sub-Continent. Not only are they not Christian, they also do not have white skin.

          1. It was not a bigoted comment at all. You can easily find the demographic information online. It is a fact that has nothing to do with race and ethnicity.

          2. Please do not use the Daily Mail as a source of facts.

            The UK is not going to get overrun by Muslims breeding like crazy, anymore than it has been overrun by any other group of immigrants over the years.

            Groups arriving in the UK tend to have more children than average it is true. However after a few generations this ceases to be the case. The Muslim immigrants that have arrived since the 50s are no different.

            1. Like I said anyone can research the info online and BTW I am not a Daily Mail reader so that is not my source nor did I did say the UK was about to get overrun by Muslims breeding like rats.

    2. “I find the indignation here amusing at times”

      Do you?

      How did you miss the fact that the indignation here is not at the fact that this is a popular world religion, but that is a practise that promotes treating women as second class citizens and this is now being endorsed by a state institution that actually prohibits gender-based discrimination in its own laws?

      1. My comment was directed at those expressing exasperation at Muslims praying 5 times a day to an imaginary being not towards the discriminatory practice against women which I do find appalling.

  15. I think US law is that students can use school rooms for religious meetings or religious organizations so long as this doesn’t occur during “instructional time.” I’m not sure whether these prayers constitute such a violation, though I suspect they do, since Muslim prayer times vary from day to day.

    I’m not objecting to that so much as the sex segregation, which is disgusting and may violate the gender-equity policy. I don’t think that schools that allow religious practices must also allow those practices that violate such policies.

  16. I was raised a Muslim, and –as kids, i never got the feeling any of us cared that men and women were separate during prayers. Praying was too much of a chore to be worried about whether I was in the front or the back. (Separate seating at dinner parties was another matter!) To add another point, since Muslim prayer is shoulder-to-shoulder and toe-to-toe, there is a good chance you’d end up with guys brushing up against girls.

  17. I have followed since about ten days or so ago when I subscribe to the website and blog the interesting (at times) cogent postings and remarks of Professor COyne. I confess that I have not read ‘Why Evolution is True’ since I chose to buy Dawkin’s The Greatest Show on Earth over that of Why Evolution is True ( I think they convey the same message). :))

    I work in a University in Malaysia (I am not Malayisan) and it is to say the least impolitic, inadvisable and in extreme cases may be even ‘dangeours’ to post such a blog in Malaysia and perhaps even to circulate among Malaysians especially if it includes Muslims among them even the apparently moderate ones.

    Having stated that I agree generally or at least partly with Professor Coyne’s criticism of Professor Ruse. I did read and enjoy (and also learn from) Darwinism and Its Discontents (so far the only book by Ruse that I have read) until it comes to the last pages 277-290 of the book. I would not go as harsh that Professor Ruse is ‘pirouetting’ on the faith/science fence but he seems certainly ‘accomodative’.

    Another book somewhere along the lines of Michael Ruse ‘accomodationism’ is Why Us? How Science Discovered the Mystery of Ourselves by James Le Fanu. I know I am ‘piegon holing’ but this query which I hope Professor Coyne would care to comment is: if the intellectual sympathy/antagonism and in the middle accomodationism of evolutionists (like Professors Coyne, Dawkins, the late Stephen Jay Gould and Ernst Mayr and yes Simon Conway Morris), historians of science or philosphers such as Michael Ruse, Daniel Dennett, James Le Fanu are put on a ‘spectrum’ would Dawkins, Coyne, Dennett the late Ernst Mayr (though he is not as passionate or ‘shrill’ in his advocacy of atheism as say, Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens) would be on one end of the spectrum say ‘left’, Conway Morris would be on the other end ‘right’ and Gould, Ruse and James Le Fanu would be in the ‘middle’ with perhaps Ruse closer to the Conway Morris position than those on the left?

    Is this scale or spectrum ‘arbitrary’, ‘uninformed’ or even useless? For the purpose admittedly of ‘pigeon holing’ what does Professor Coyne and the other contributors think of this categorization on the spectrum of atheism, Christian theism and ‘accomodationism’ vis-a-vis selected few of the scientists and philosophers mentioned above?

    1. The important question is, who is advocating for the facts, evidence, and truth. It matters not whether they are in the middle or edges of the popular opinion of the time.

      1. What I meant was in the atheism-theism-‘acomodationism’ ‘spectrum’ of beliefs attitudes, claims, statements and debates whether the persons mentioned in the post Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Jerry Coyne, the late Stephen Jay Gould, Simon
        Conway Morris, Micheal Ruse, the late Enst Mayr, Chrisptopher Hitchens, James Le Fanu ‘stands’ with the differing views and nuances on (mainly) atheism (vis-a-vis or in relation to THEIR understanding of evolutionary theory) and it was NOT a query or statement as to whether they and their views are in the ‘middle or edges of popular opinion’ as such. In fact ‘popular opinion’ is neither mentioned nor is it implied in the post.

        At least in relation to all of the persons named in the original posts each of them would believe and/or cliaim directly or indirectly that their views, positions, stand points on theism, atheism, accomodationism are ‘based on evidence, facts and truth’. To be more specific Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne would disagree with Simon Conway Morris’ views at least as regards to his thestic connotations and definetly with Conway Morris’ ‘anti-atheism’. And both ‘groups’ (Dawkins etc and Conway Morris) would believe and strongly claim (indeeed they have claimed) in effect that their views, positions and stands are based on ‘facts, evidence and the trurth’. In the ‘middle’ Gould, Ruse, Le Fanu would be ‘accomodative’ if not of theism then (Gould) of separate magisteria.

        Hence for the sake of discussion or at least ‘musings’ it matters to gauge and query about the views of Jerry Coyne to which I direct my post,( in the light of the fact that he had critiqued Ruses’ ‘ambitendencies’) what he (Professor Jerry Coyne) thinks of his fellow scientists -or philosopher’s- views on these subjects.

  18. it is to say the least impolitic, inadvisable and in extreme cases may be even ‘dangeours’ to post such a blog in Malaysia

    FYI, anyone (institution, ISP, govt) watching your packets can see everything—where you’re browsing, what you read, and what you post.

    Download and use the Tor Polipo proxy to encrypt all your web connections. Your packets will show that you’re using Tor, but the source and contents are all securely encrypted. If Tor entry nodes are blocked, then Tor has a mechanism for getting unadvertised ip’s, or you can purchase bandwidth on an anonymous web proxy located outside your country.

    At the very least, only post on websites like this WordPress site that use HTTPS (not HTTP), which provides an encrypted link between your browser and the website. However, be warned that this website’s HTTPS encryption depends on the browser you’re using—I don’t have it for my smartphone’s browser as I type.

    What’s much worse, Saudi and Bahrain have tried to break RIM’s encryption through weak certificate authorities preloaded into browsers.

    An anonymous proxy via Tor or an ssh tunnel is anyone’s best guarantee of privacy and security. Good luck.

  19. I find at least a few of the comments above somewhat troubling, as they seem to border on zealotry.

    While I understand (and share!) the concerns expressed about indoctrination, I think that one should be extremely careful about contending that one knows what someone else really wants better than s/he does. Certainly objectionable practices are open to criticism (and often should be criticized), but to suppose that someone must feel injured or oppressed by some activity, even though this person insists that s/he does not, is to start down a road that can lead to the most terrible oppression.

    1. While I agree the individual’s choice (if fully informed) needs to be respected. I’m having a difficult time picturing a woman waking up in the morning thinking; Oh the joy, the day is finally here, today is the day that my husband will be allowed to cut off my nose. Even though I was raped I am honored to be punished in place of my attackers.

      1. So, I guess that’s not something one has to worry about, then, is it?

        I’m not sure how your comment is intended to be responsive, though. Certainly something that is done without another’s consent is not really relevant to the cases with consent.

          1. With that last comment I could make a guess at what you were trying to say, but this one leaves me completely in the dark. It is posted as a response, but I don’t see how it is even possibly intended as being responsive.

            1. Just trying to get you to look at the subject from the point of view of someone that lives as a submissive in an environment that is threatening to those who do not comply. Even if there are a substantial number of muslim women that are fully informed and can reasonably escape if they don’t agree that women should be submissive (which I doubt due to muslim social norms), it still inflicts undue hardship on those women that go along with the practices because they see no other reasonable choice.

              I just don’t think the muslim women have true freedom of choice regarding their individual lives and, I think that the structure of these prayer ceremonies are the initial steps to indoctrinating them into a life of servitude whether they realize it and like it, or they don’t.

              Again though, I agree with your caution regarding assumptions of another persons reasoning but, that culture doesn’t appear to allow people, particularly women, to leave freely. The structure of the children’s prayers are the first steps of a designed process to obtain compliance.

              1. Responding a bit late, but…

                I understand what you are trying to say, here, I think, and I accept even that there can be such things as “false consciousness”.

                That said, and recognizing that I am all in favour of giving people choices, who are you (or I, or anyone else) to tell someone else that what they consider their best “reasonable choice” isn’t the right one?

                Once we reserve to ourselves the right to deny others the choices that they want, because we know better, then we are (at least in this aspect) no different than the priests and mullahs.

  20. As a USAn recently transplanted to Canada I’m still trying to figure out how freedom of religion works here, but in principle I don’t think this is a government issue.

    The problem is not with public prayer; it is with government-sponsored or led prayer. It is a reasonable accommodation to freedom of religion to provide unused space for voluntary, student-led prayer during the day.

    If the students choose to segregate themselves during prayer, then government should not interfere. The government should not, in this case, enforce a policy of mixing the sexes. The last thing we want is government dictating to anyone how they should, or should not, worship.

    I disagree with the practice of segregation of the sexes and join the chorus that publicly condemns it. But that doesn’t mean I want the government to do anything about it.

  21. Jerry, I haven’t read all the comments yet, so I don’t know if someone else has mentioned this. Your description of what the photo shows is, I think, not correct. The back row of the photo is the menstruating girls. The two rows immediately in front of them, separated by a gap, are the other girls. You might not be able to see it in the photograph, given its small size, but they are wearing the hijab.

    The boys are at the front of the room, separated from the girls, by a barrier made of cafeteria tables placed on their sides (the prayers take place in the cafeteria) DURING SCHOOL HOURS on Fridays.


  22. The issue at stake here is truth. An article in the Guardian about John Walker Lindh reported his father’s comments on his conversion to Islam. He said that he thought his son was always a Muslim and he had, “discovered himself”. This was an illustration of the lure of pluralism. This father had been led to ‘believe’ that there are many truths you simply pick the one that suits. The sad consequences of believing this lie are now apparent.

    The children in this picure, like John Lindh, are being presented a profound truth claim about Islam and its god. They are being taught what the god Allah expects in order that he should be loved: Praying five times a day, in a certain direction, seperated genders and a follow up Haj. Contributers to this forum are determining that this requirement is not true. Untruths that are otherwise known as a lies.

    1. Thank you for this. I have some problems with it, because I would rather not have any sort of religious observance in schools, and I think that the many sorts of religious people in society should take it upon themselves to find their own solutions without making extraordinary demands of the public services they use. However, treating girls as intrinsically unclean under any circumstances is intolerable, so I have signed the petition. This kind of discrimination should be criminalised.

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