Saturday, December 05, 2015

A Different Perspective

A news story from last month.

The Ugly Truth: Rabbi complains after being told to remove shoes in Heathrow multi-faith prayer room

(Sorry about the Antisemitism on this site. Most definitely not endorsed by this blogger)

"The multi-faith prayer room in Heathrow is a simple room, very clean, very quite and peaceful, with no religious sign or ‘decoration’ and where any person, of any religion can go to for prayer, meditation, contemplation etc. I have personally seen Muslims, Christian nuns, Hindus, Buddhists visit that room. Every one removes his/her shoes and no one has ever complained nor even questioned why shoes should be removed.

Until now. Enters the rabbi who does not understand that for other faiths, a prayer room is not a garbage bin and we have Heathrow ordered to apologize."

Leaving aside the Antisemitic subtext of this post, I agree with this alternative perspective on that news story.

The story about the rabbi being asked to take his shoes off and then Heathrow later apologising for this was treated by the media as either a "Muslims taking over" story or a generic "Political correctness gone mad" story.

I thought the rabbi's attitude was very unimpressive. Lots of religions other than Islam remove shoes to pray, It was therefore reasonable to treat the room as a sacred space. When I tried to argue this on Twitter last month, I got shouted down. Of course, some of the people commenting on that page ought to be shouted down too.


Carrie said...

Sorry, this sounds like an antisemitic hoax that you seem to believe. A story made up to make Rabbis (and Jews in general) look bad. I am not impressed.

Matthew Celestine said...

No, this story is true. Google it and you will find it in a number of news sources.

Matthew Celestine said...

Here is the same story in the Jewish Chronicle, hardly an antisemitic source.

By the way, Carrie, I am glad you think the rabbi was being unreasonable, as a lot of people seem to be outraged by the Heathrow employee asking him to remove hi shoes.

Bob said...

I disagree with you Matthew.
If shoes are to be removed out of respect for certain religions than should they not ask all male visitors to wear yarmulkes out of respect for the Jewish religion?
Should there also not be a separation of rooms for those religions who do not allow men and women to worship together?
Political correctness can be carried only so far. The recent terrorist act in California might have be averted if a neighbor had alerted authorities to what she saw occurring but did not do so for fear of being labeled a profiler and therefore a racist.

Matthew Celestine said...

Hi Bob.

I suspect if we had a conversation about some of these issues, you'd think I'm hopelessly liberal. Maybe you already do.

If the argument from the concept of sacred space doesn't persuade you, how about a practical one: A lot of the users are going to be kneeling on the floor. Wouldn't you rather do that in a room with a clean carpet?

It's easy to criticize those neighbours. But consider that thousands more people may have had concerns about perfectly innocent neighbours.

Knowing when it is right to report your neighbours to the authorities is a sensitive question. You hear a neighbour regularly shouting at her child. Do you call social services or not?

But we are getting off-topic.

Bob said...

Hi Matthew,
My point was if you are going to establish rules in a non sectarian place of worship those rules should be applied broadly to all religions and not appear to favor one over the other as the rules at Heathrow appear to do.
As for many who would be kneeling on the floor, Christians and Jews use pews with kneelers. I am assuming that the majority of those using the chapel would be Christians or Jews therefore the no shoes rule appears to favor certain religions over others.
As for a neighbor continually yelling at her child, my decision to notify social services would depend on a number of factors such as physical marks on the child and the overall behavior of the child. Some children are more badly behaved than others and a tongue lashing can be warranted.

Carrie said...

No, I don't think the rabbi did the wrong thing by refusing to remove his shoes. Jews don't remove their shoes in their places of worship, and tend to object when forced to observe non-Jewish religious practices (be it kneeling, or not wearing shoes, or do a communion.) If it that important to maintain shoe-free areas for Muslims, why not have some rugs for them in that room?