A new religion.

This was in today’s local paper:

At the MnSCU board meeting Wednesday, MnSCU attorney Gail Olson said the foot-washing issue raised potential constitutional issues regarding the free exercise of religion versus the establishment of religion. It might be difficult to devise a general policy for the systems’ 32 institutions, she said.

Board member Cheryl Dickson said a foot-washing accommodation for Muslims at MCTC “is a safety issue and a religion issue” and could set a precedent with unforeseen consequences.

I find it most interesting that it arose out of a safety issue. An incident where a female student was washing her feet at the sink and slipped and fell. To me that is someone who is dedicated to both cleanliness and her religion. I don’t really have anything against that and find that accomodating someone with such needs to be appropriate. However, that raises questions of who pays for it, who maintains it, etc.

I assume and I do mean assume.. that in a muslim country these types of facilities are provided on a regular basis and that they are culturally as well as religiously integrated into the “mainstream expectations” of society.

I’ll give an example. In Japan, I found that rarely would a public restroom provide paper towels, a hand dryer or soap. Yet if I walked into a restroom in the US and found it to be without those amenities I would complain to management. Now you could easily define washing your hands as a public safety and health issue. As would you describe what happened to the young woman who slipped and fell.

This is a fascinating bit where two different cultures meet and have to negotiate a solution. I’d say that in the end the expectations and world view of both sides would need to adjust to make this a happy situation. I had no such chance in Japan. I learned to carry a bit of soap and a hand towel when I was travelling a lot in Japan.

Note: There is an irony there as at hotels they provide everything including your toothbrush and bathrobe. Maybe an attempt to make up for the public restrooms??

However, there is a larger story here. If we come to the table with a cultural, behavioral, religious expectation and make a case for public safety, health and well-being we might see institutional change? If so, if my theory hold somewhat true. I think we should establish a new religion. (Yes, I am being selfish here.) I don’t have a name for the religion but the main tenant of the religion is that we do not work between 12pm and 3pm every day of the week. Instead we eat lunch and take a long nap. Which has proven health benefits. Maybe the name of the religion should be the cardio-long-life-…?? Do you think it would be a way to get sleeping couches established in offices? A time away from the phone, computer, stress. Could a religious expectation change cultural behavior for those who don’t participate in the religion? I nap and all of the co-workers nap except three guys. Do they learn a different behavior because the “religion of cardio-health” is practiced so heavily in their office? Do they decide that instead of napping they’ll take the time to exercise? go visit a friend across town? Have a long lunch with their wives? Or their kid?

Ok so I’m being a bit tongue in cheek here. However, I think that it’s interesting that in our country and not too many other places these conflicts are occuring. I wonder what the cross-pollination of culture/religion will bring in the long run. Fights are NOT breaking out. We’re discussing it, publically, heatedly, but discussing. I see this as positive and it overall it gives me hope for the future. The fact that we can have this discussion instead of war. I hope, for the sake of the women, that they get their foot baths. I don’t want to pay for it but I hope that they get a safe way to continue a part of their culture.

And maybe, just maybe.. someday the siesta will be culture wide here. Where there is time during the day to eat, converse with friends, family and neighbors. Where there is time to take an afternoon nap!


~ by mud on April 19, 2007.

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