Empathy

I have been reading about the silliness of the Toronto woman who is taking a Muslim barber to the Ontario Human Rights Commission for refusing to cut her hair because it is against his religion to touch a woman other than his wife/mother/sister.

It is interesting reading the waste of time comment wars at the end of various news articles. Interesting because a very simple reality is bleeding into the discussion that few people seem to be noticing. 

Neither “side” seems capable of empathy. There is no sense that those in support of the woman have a clue what it might be like to be a Muslim barber put into this situation. It is clear that most do not even care simply determining that his perspective is unfair and wrong. 

Sadly the same is true for those who support the barber…what must it be like to be a woman refused service because of her gender? How must that feel?

Still there are pragmatic facts to consider – the Muslim barber has a choice – renounce his faith and cut her hair. The woman also has a choice – go to another barber shop.

We do not yet live in a society that outlaws religion in favour of secular humanism…but since it worked so well in the Soviet Union perhaps we will one day.

Part of the problem is the unhinging of the western world from any form of absolute and transcendent arbiter of values (aka God). Those in favour of such unhinging would argue that God was never really there and we have been worshiping human values all along in the guise of religion. If this is the case how will humanism improve anything? What change will it bring?

This is a tough subject the more one thinks about it. 100 years ago in Atlanta a black man might have walked into a barber shop to get his hair cut and have been refused on the basis of a moral conviction. He might have been told that there were a dozen other barber shops run by black barbers where he could get his hair cut so go there.

Well that’s different, we say. That was racism and this, this is simply religiously inspired sexism. Hmmm…that does not look so good when it ends up in print.

So what is the solution? Do we force Muslim men to cut women’s hair? Do we tell them they must stop being barbers if they don’t like it? It opens a huge can of worms…because if barber shops must be equal what about the NHL? What about the NFL? Should women be forced to use washrooms separate from men? Is this sexism? What would happen if a man walked into a women’s shower room at the gym because he thinks it is unfair that they segregate the sexes that way?

What we are slowly becoming aware of is that human rights as we have been defining them logically can only lead to one conclusion – each person has there own unique set of human rights completely different and in opposition to every other person’s with only compromise and humility keeping anyone alive.

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