Jack Rosen, President AJC issues statement on accommodating Moslem religious rights.
29 Sep 2006
New York: September 29, 2006. European nations find difficulty integrating their Moslem populations into their broader societies. The United States finds it far easier to do so. This is no accident. Europeans are prepared to accept Moslems and Islam only on European terms. Yet, they persistently refuse to accommodate religious practices â€“ including Muslim practices â€“ which differ from prevailing European cultural norms. Americans, by contrast, routinely accommodate minority religious practice and consequently have little trouble integrating Moslems into the larger population. The American tradition is to accept, barring a compelling reason not to do so, people and their faiths as they are and let them make whatever adjustments they believe necessary.
The latest controversy of this sort is one in Holland over the discharge of an otherwise qualified Moslem female teacher who refused to shake hands with male parents. Her refusal did not, apparently, affect her classroom performance. Neither did it prevent her from communicating with parents. The decision to fire the teacher sends the message that only existing Dutch values are tolerated. No wonder Moslems feel isolated.
Understandably, some people find a gender-based refusal to shake hands disconcerting. Others find the practice demeaning and a breach of the prevailing egalitarian ethos. The American Jewish Congress thinks that accommodating this practice (which finds a parallel in the practices of many Orthodox Jews) is the price of meaningful religious diversity