Here’s a letter that came into my hands; it is given out to airlines when these Hindu monks check in for their flights, and requests special treatment on the grounds of their faith. That treatment involves not sitting next to women (or girls, I suppose), and not speaking to them directly. Nor are the monks to be spoken to by female flight attendents, except through an intermediary male passenger. Have a gander:
This is similar to the actions of those Orthodox Jews I wrote about last December, who refused to sit next to women on planes, also on religious grounds. (As far as I know, they will deign to speak to women, though.) Three flights were involved, with the Jews’ request causing delays in every case.
To me this letter requests unconscionable sex discrimination, and the airline should refuse to honor any of these requests (including that for pre-boarding—why do they need to get on the plane before anyone else?). It’s simply wrong to ask airlines to permit a group of passengers to discriminate against women, even if the passengers plead the dictates of their faith. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, which in this case is equal treatment of all people, regardless of gender, race, or creed. Imagine if a religious group asked not to sit next to a black person, or speak to one except through a white intermediary!
Is there anyone out there who will justify or defend this practice?
And should airlines even try to honor this practice? Should they ask women to change places with men so these monks won’t be “polluted”? On the flights with Orthodox Jews, flight attendants tried to find seats that would satisfy those men. It’s not clear whether they asked people to move or simply pointed out empty seats that were suitable. I suppose the latter practice is okay because you are permitted to occupy any empty seat in your class after the plane takes off. But I don’t think flight attendants should be in the business of catering to sex-discriminatory religious practices by asking people to switch seats.
It’s heartening that on one of the flights I described in the earlier posts, it was the passengers who, incensed by this kind of request, refused to accommodate the Orthodox Jews by switching seats.