Monday, March 23, 2009

Swimming with Sharks

This article raises two important culturist questions -

First, when is a microcosm no longer a microcosm? At some point a pattern becomes a rule. That is why small things matter.

Second, is it more tolerant for me to tolerate your intolerance of my tolerance or is it more tolerant to be intolerant of your tolerance of my intolerance? Unfortunately, we have no choice but to devise a serious answer.

Via Gripes of Wrath comes an article from the Australian:

AUSTRALIAN universities are responsible for providing quality education, not consecrated religious spaces, according to a university involved in a bitter dispute over Muslim prayer rooms.

Dozens of Islamic students plan to protest today to demand that a dedicated Muslim prayer room replace an existing multi-faith centre at Melbourne's RMIT.

But acting pro vice-chancellor Maddy McMaster said it was not for universities to provide consecrated religious spaces.

"A university's responsibility to its students is to provide them with a quality education," she said. "Recognising that the educational experience is not confined to the classroom, RMIT offers other services, including prayer rooms. It falls to religious communities to provide the consecrated spaces."

The dispute over prayer rooms at RMIT's Swanston Street campus began when a Muslim prayer room was demolished in late 2007 as part of renovations. The university's Islamic student association claims it was promised new rooms but that the institution reneged on its promise by making them multi-faith. They are now campaigning to have the multi-faith rooms declared Muslim-only.

"As a result (of the multi-faith centre) students and staff have been forced to pray," the RMIT Islamic Society said on its website. "As a consequence of not having a Muslim prayer room on Swanston St, Muslim females have allegedly been subject to sexual abuse, harassment and religious vilification."

Organisers of the protest - which has the backing of the National Union of Students and the RMIT Student Union - say they have been left with no choice but to take action.

But Dr McMaster said the university already provided a number of prayer rooms for Muslim students across all its campuses. "It is difficult to see how we can improve on eight Muslim prayer rooms, with one more opening, as well as providing Muslim students with preferential access to two prayer rooms in the multi-faith Spiritual Centre," she said.

"(Universities) should provide quality resources for those who choose a spiritual path. But as a secular institution, such resources do not include consecrated spaces such as churches, synagogues or mosques."

NUS president David Barrow said the demand for Muslim prayer rooms was increasing and space was a problem. "With the influx of international students from Muslim countries, the Muslim prayer rooms haven't been able to cope with the load," he said.


Pastorius said...

Culturist John,
You asked: it more tolerant for me to tolerate your intolerance of my tolerance or is it more tolerant to be intolerant of your tolerance of my intolerance?

I say: That is a very profound question. That question pretty much gets to the heart of the dilemma facing Western Civilization.

maccusgermanis said...

Toleration is a different issue from patronage. I presume that the prayer rooms are not privately owned spaces demolished without compensation to the owners. Rather they are university spaces quibbled over by various students with various causes. If nominally muslim students really want one more prayer room then they should pass the hat. Each idividual being given the choice as to whether they give to a distinct cause. The assumption that some "we" must oppose the building of one structure and encourage the building of another does lead to other unintended strife. I do not here suggest that any of the theologies of Christian denominations are as dangerous as that of islam, but that various denominations may want their own, rather than multi-faith, spaces on campus. In the US that has generally meant that they did buy adjacent land and build such spaces. This is a solution preserving of toleration, ending of patronage, and encouraging of a free exchange of ideas. -none being given undue sanction from a state power-

Unknown said...


I appreciate the subtlety of your reply as evidenced by your worry over "unintended strife." But, I disagree.

Unintended strife is unavoidable. And that the "multifaith room" seems to have irked some more than others may show why. Islam does not share in the liberal assumption of the room.

Culturism holds that majority cultures have a right to protect, guide and promote themselves. A public university is a key site for culturism.

Public education would be greatly enhanced if the authorities announced that it was a public university and Australian. Since Australia is a Christian nation, no public monies will go towards building mosques. Iran builds no churches, we build no mosques.

This gets to the heart of the matter. You may be horrified at the idea because we are a tolerant liberal, well, multicultural society. I hold that the West is a Judeo Christian space historically. And if we do not recognize that it will not be in the future.

I agree with your advise that the Muslims should pass the hat and establish a privately held mosque. That would be a normal and acceptable solution.

However, I would not allow Saudi money to come in and fund a mosque. Foreign monies for investment are fine. But the proliferation of wahhabi mosques is for cultural imperialism. We must stop it. Again, we can't build churches in Saudi Arabia. They cannot build mosques here.

Were this in America, the big worry will be about the separation of church and state. Perhaps this could only be addressed by keeping multifaith spaces. I do not think the Constitution commits us to building mosques. And, preventing public dollars from funding them does NOT establish a religion.

The real issue here is does the West have a culture? Are we just as Islamic as not? And, to add a question; is the opposite of "unintended strife" surrender? Because, some groups do not seem to want a multi-faith room. And, if you do not stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

maccusgermanis said...

In fact I would be against a multi-faith room. I am, in keeping with Judeo-Christian tradition, reflexively suspect of communitarian and governmental solutions. How, as a part of Christian tradition, can nominal Christians seek state and corporate solutions to problems repeatedly affirmed to be individual? Where in Christian tradition is it ever claimed that Christ petitioned Roman governors to curb drinking, prostitution, or the growth of various cults?

Governance is the management of a tradition's failure, but it is a poor copy and no substitute. "Culturists" will never change, nor preserve cultures without understanding, and giving deference to the supremacy of individuals. It is formerly state sponsored culture that fails to a greater degree than whatever can be self supporting. -Europes churches and traditions that fall faster than US- It is American culture, that is best defined by the Englishman John Milton. "Let truth and falsehood graple." The government has little place in the necessary conflicts of culture and tradition. It is in place to ameliorate the breakdown of civility arrising from such conflict. State sponsorship of denominations does create unneccesary conflict, in which arguably free peoples argue over the patronage of traditions that can not garner naturally evolved support.

Unknown said...

"Governance is the management of a tradition's failure." That is beautiful.

Certainly, a culture cannot be wholly made or imposed from the top. It is either there or it is not. But government policies and attitudes have an impact. For example, not having a border tells America it has no nation. If you, as before, have a border for culturist reasons, and your textbooks affirm it, you have pride in a heritage. Whether you live up to it or not, it becomes coin of the realm.

Individualism reigning supreme requires a cultural supposition. For example, in nations where they beat women who show their hair, individualism cannot thrive. And a sound economy is needed for the economic opportunity of individualism. Again, pure individualism and border laws do not reconcile. We have a country and a culture.
That said, yes, it is individualistic.

I love Isaiah Berlin's understanding of the American Puritans. They recognized that liberty required morals. This was contrasted with license, which only enslaved you. Irresponsible living diminishes choices. It was easier to be a saint in a community of saints and so a community was needed. The Founding Fathers also thought a particular type of individualism, a republican outlook, necessary for the continuance of our national experiment.

To say that we can have no government policy concerning our culture strips us of our borders and morals. After that, schools must be multicultural and I cannot disagree with Islamic universities. I believe we are a western nation. And whereas this doesn't mean the government builds churches or selects priests, it does mean we can prohibit Mosques being built with government money. This would reify our collective identity, increase our sense of responsibility to it, and make our sense of individualism recognize duty and so become more realistic.

Thanks! John