Monday, November 19, 2012

The perils of hairdressing while Muslim

In the list of Islamic contributions to science, perhaps we need to add the discovery of “girl germs”.
TORONTO — In case of competing rights, a Toronto woman has lodged a complaint against a barber who refused to cut her hair because he’s Muslim. In June, Faith McGregor requested a man’s haircut at the Terminal Barber Shop in downtown Toronto. Co-owner Omar Mahrouk told her that his Muslim faith prohibits him from touching a woman who is not a member of his family. All the other barbers in the shop said the same thing. “ 
For me it was just a haircut and started out about me being a woman,” McGregor, 35, told the Toronto Star. “Now we’re talking about religion versus gender versus human rights and businesses in Ontario.” 
She has filed a complaint with Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario because the incident made her feel like a “second-class citizen.” McGregor is not seeking monetary damages, but wants the tribunal to force the shop to offer men’s haircuts to both genders. 
“In our faith, I can cut my mother’s hair, I can cut my sister’s hair, I can cut my wife’s hair, my daughter’s hair,” shop co-owner Karim Saaden told The Star. “We are people who have values and we hold on to (them). I am not going to change what the faith has stated to us to do.” 
McGregor rejected an offer from the shop to find a barber to cut her hair. “It’s the principle of the matter…This needs to be discussed and now it’s bigger than what occurred with me that one day,” she told the newspaper. [Source]
To throw one more tidbit of information out there: Saaden and Mahrouk are so strict in their faith that they also serve alcohol at their other barber shop.

I found this an interesting case because while these guys appear to be acting like dicks, is this something for the law to intervene in? You could argue that the bad publicity they will get will be lesson enough – a free market solution rather than a state one.

That said, perhaps this is the sort of thing the organs of the state need to put their foot down about. It may be a pipe dream, but I hope that one day we will see, at least in the West, a secular modernised version of Islam to triumph over the medieval bullshit. This would have to involve Muslims jettisoning a whole bunch of their beliefs and keeping some core ones which are conducive to living in the 21st century – in the same way that Christianity has done. But governments and courts need to play a role in pushing this along. It’d be nice to have a judge decide that freedom of religion does not give anyone license to be a douche.

I wonder what would happen if one of these barbers had to rescue a woman from drowning. Here in Melbourne there was a fuss recently about some Muslim cab drivers refusing to carry blind people and their guide dogs. Just like this case, it gives the impression of Muslims who are so concerned about their own notion of personal purity that they will completely disregard basic civilities.


  1. Well ES, this goes back to the fundamental problem of an all too significant minority of Muslims who want to live in the West and benefit from its standard of living, yet reject Western values.

    (as you pointed out in your "Muslim Youth and Rape" post)

    As you also pointed out, somewhere along the way, some people have interpreted "multiculturalism," "equality," and "pluralism" to mean that it's okay to act like a barbarian.

    Needless to say, multiculturalism's one-way-tolerance needs to come to an end. At some point, certain immigrants and minorities use their host society's tolerance against them, if such rules of tolerance are not equally applied to them.

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  3. The barbers might very well be acting like dicks, if they don't usually strictly adhere to some of the restrictions of their faith (i.e. alcohol); that said, there are hairdressers that cater to both male and female clientele, whereas barbershops are generally only patronised by men.
    It could be argued that a man whose religion restricted contact with women to whom he is not related may choose to set up as a barbershop rather than a hairdresser in order to reduce the risk of encountering this type of conflict.
    On the other other hand however, being charged $60 by a hairdresser for a cut that would only cost $30 for a male customer, simply because one's gender reads as female is understandably frustrating.