Sunday, September 07, 2008

Separate but equal

Helsinki has its own segregated swimming now, for Muslim women only. It's in Jakomäki swimming pool, swimming lessons for Muslim girls only Saturday 9-10:45, free swimming for Muslim women 11-14:30. Infidels need not apply.

Sometime last fall they had swimming hours for immigrant women. Now city of Helsinki Sports Department has it listed as Muslim-women hours.

Different Muslim cultures has different interpretation of Islamic modesty rules, but I'd appreciate pointers at what particular interpretation says that Muslim men can swim with infidels of both sexes, whereas Muslim women can swim in the company of each other, but not in the company of infidel women.

This, however, is not the point. There might be Muslim women who truly and deeply feel that they need their separate swimming time. Damn, I used to like having separate swimming time for myself and my fellow computer science students. We rented the pool for a evening from the student union now and then. The city sports facilities are also available for rent by private groups. This, however, is not Muslim Women's Swimming Club ry renting the place and inviting their members, or some Aisha and Fatima renting it and inviting their friends. This is the city of Helsinki practicing discrimination on the basis of religion.

The issue of sex-separated swimming facilities is pretty similar in my opinion, but for all it's worth, Yrjönkatu pool has separate hours for both men and women, and Muslim women can use it just like anyone else. The fact that some of them seem to resent sharing the pool with infidel women makes one wonder whether the issue is really Islam as such (I've been to a shower with a bunch of religious-looking Bedouin women in Negev, they didn't run away or go blind), or possibly the fact the the parents of some particular African cultures don't want to have to explain to their daughters why everybody else's pussy is different from their own. After all, if vulva and clitoris are unclean, no wonder they don't want to swim in a pool full of them.

A few people in the HS forum defended the policy on the basis of "it isn't hurting anyone" (except for everyone else who might like to use the place on Saturday?) and that it would be wrong to begrudge the Muslim women their separate swimming time, and what's the big deal as long as everyone gets to swim at some point.

Now where have I heard that before? Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), a US Supreme Court decision upholding the doctrine of "separate but equal". I suppose a lot of people would say that a decision the US Supreme Court has made in 1896 should not be relevant in Finland in 2008. I agree. It hasn't even been relevant in the US since 1954.

Muslims have lived in Finland for more than a 100 years now, and somehow managed to survive without their own pool hours until now. A lot of them managed to swim with the opposite sex, or at least with the infidels of the same sex. The native-born Finnish Muslims seem to have no trouble whatsoever. The immigrants, or the native-born Finns who convert into the more restrictive forms of Islam, should understand that this society is not designed for them, and it's up to them to adapt to it.

Yes, having to always reserve the pool privately is quite inconvenient for the kind of Muslims who can't swim in the same pool with infidels. Right. It's supposed to be inconvenient for them. In case somebody did not get the memo, this society has not been designed for the convenience of the fundamentalist Muslims, but of mostly-secular mostly-Lutherans. Live with it.

And no, I don't even think that accommodating requests of immigrant groups is always a bad thing. I just don't think that "we don't want our women to swim with unclean infidels" is a request worthy of being accommodated.

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