Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Taking the Michael

I read today that a Muslim radiographer has resigned her job because of a hospital policy that required she bare her arms up to her elbow. The policy has been in place since the start of the year (months before she began work) and aims to improve hygiene and mitigate the transmission of superbugs such as MRSA. She feels that the policy discriminates against Muslim women who, according to some Islamic teachings, must remain covered in public.

This isn’t a human rights issue and this isn’t discrimination. This is a sensible measure to prevent the spread of infectious disease. How someone who works in the health sector can fail to appreciate this is beyond me.

She has her beliefs, which she adheres to of her own volition. If these beliefs restrict how she presents herself in public and which jobs she can legitimately perform then so be it, she has made her bed. She has chosen to follow the strictures of Islam and she can – presumably – opt out at any time. She should be appreciating the society that allows her to practice whichever religion she might chose, not attempting to force it to compromise sensible, hygiene precautions. It’s good, at least, to see the Imam standing by the hospital.

This reminds me strongly of the acute trend of needless litigation that was all the rage a few years ago. Someone would trip on an uneven paving stone and sue the council for not keeping their pavements as flat and flawless as their kitchen floors. As if screwing the council for all its worth will provide the funds to fix public walkways.

Thankfully this kind of imbecility seems to be dying down. But it’s quickly being replaced by a new game - see how far the government will bend over backwards to accommodate the fanciful beliefs of a religious minority. This is not the path to go down, and setting ridiculous precedents will not help matters. Our society was developed on Christian values and their arbitrary principles – hence people almost never worked on Sundays. Nowadays there are not laws against working on the Sabbath (and in an case stoning is frowned upon) and many if not most shops open for at least some time. I am no Christian but I don’t have a problem with shops closing down each Sunday – it’s a good idea to have a nationally recognised day off, and Sunday is as good a day as any. It was initiated for religious reasons, fair enough, but it is kept because it works. Now imagine if we had to treat the holy days of other religions the same – we’d barely have a working week left.

Yes, Christianity has had a privileged place in our history – it was first-come, first-served, after all – but our ancestors spent the intervening time pruning off the needless bits of religiously-inspired law that interfered with the day-to-day life so that we can live in a secular society. We do not need to relive this part of our history. Anyone is free to adopt any voluntary system of beliefs they feel like, but attempts to bully society into taking religiously-justified (and otherwise unnecessary) amendments should not be given the time of day.

No comments: