This is not a joke. It really happened. Faith McGregor went to the Terminal Barber Shop in Toronto, Canada and requested a “businessman’s haircut.” The Terminal is owned by Karim Saaden and Omar Mahrouk, who are Muslim. They refused. McGregor fumed, and scurried off to Canada’s Human Rights Tribunal, which swears to end discrimination against people based upon sexual orientation andreligion.
See the problem?
Now we all know what would have happened if the barbershop had been owned by Christians. Something along the lines of what happened to Jack Phillips, an Evangelical Christian and proud owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, in Lakewood, Colorado. Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked him to bake a cake for their wedding, and he refused on religious grounds. A Colorado judge has ordered him to bake it or he’ll go to jail.
Bringing legal and political pressure on Christian business owners on matters of conscience is becoming increasingly commonplace. It is often done in contempt of their expressed convictions and Christians are generally meek when pressed with imposed demands.
Some obvious examples. When Christians pass laws like the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Obama simply refuses to enforce them, knowing that like-minded judges will strike them down anyway. Arizona passes a law protecting business owners like cake baker Jack Phillips, but pro-gay forces raise a squall of protest, and the Governor of AZ vetoes it.
Muslims are a different matter. As I’ve noted elsewhere, while the politically correct very cheerfully smack Christians down with one hand, with the other, they welcome Islam and bend over backwards to accommodate Muslim practices in accord with their commitment to diversity and religious toleration.
But they also know that Muslims are not meek. Publish a cartoon humiliating Christians, and that’s all in an editorial day’s work. Publish a cartoon poking fun of Muslims, as the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten found out, and you’re dealing with very real death threats from all over the world.
Well, now. What if a gay couple goes into a bakery owned by a Muslim and demands a wedding cake? Or a lesbian couple demands to buy rings from a Muslim-owned jewelry store? Probably the exact same thing that happened when Faith McGregor went into the Terminal Barber Shop and demanded a cut from Omar Mahrouk. The Muslim owner will refuse.
Omar Mahrouk refused to serve lesbian McGregor for two, very Islamic reasons that define Sharia law. First, a man does not touch a woman who is not his wife, even to give her a haircut. As the prophet Mohammed said, “The one who touches the hand of a woman without having a lawful relationship with her, will have an ember placed on his palm on the Day of Judgment.” Second, Islam forbids homosexuality and lesbianism, and unlike Christianity, it commands capital punishment for violators. Again, the words of Muhammad: “If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.”
Canada is faced with a wonderfully self-imposed dilemma, one that will soon arise in the US, as gay activists continue to push against and over all boundaries. Witness the austere opening of the Canadian Human Rights Act (1985), “For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered” [emphasis added].
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, charged with seeing the Act obeyed, thereby has to decide between protecting sexual orientation or religion. If it should demand that Omar Mahrouk give McGregor a haircut, it violates its own commitment to the protection against religious discrimination. But if it chooses to protect Mahrouk, then gays will protest, citing the Act’s promise to protect them against discrimination based upon sexual orientation.
And we must add the obvious. We all know what would happen if Canada tried to force Mahrouk to give McGregor a haircut, or if it threw him in jail for refusing. The Tribunal knows quite well that Muslims in Canada and all over the globe would be issuing death threats.
While we in the US do not yet have a case like Mahrouk vs McGregor, it won’t be long. As with Canada, we have an increasing Muslim population. As with Canada, we have “progressive” activism that has gained increasing power over the courts, the government, and the media. As with Canada, those activists have shown that they have no anxiety about violating the religious liberty of Christians and using every power of the state to do so. How long can it be until gay activists march into a Muslim business, whether a bakery or jewelry shop or a barbershop, and demand to be served—or else?
What to do? First of all, we need to end the arbitrary use of executive, judicial, or bureaucratic force to override duly passed legislation, thereby running roughshod over both public debate and legitimate legal order. When states legislatures or the national congress pass laws defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, it is not the prerogative of the President, as chief executive, to ignore them, or the judiciary to annul them by fiat. Why bother discussing anything if only one opinion matters? Why bother pretending that we have legislative branches of our state and national governments, if the executive and judicial branches simply sweep them aside as irrelevant?
Second, a very serious public discussion must occur in regard to religious liberty. Christians are getting their liberty mowed over by liberal activists. But Muslims will not allow that to happen. Will we permit the law to happily violate religious liberty in one case, because Christians are meek, and protect it in another, because Muslims are not?
Third, we have to understand that, in our current state of pluralism, there are very real and very deep differences that vague statements about rights, discrimination, tolerance, and liberty can’t paper over. Canada’s Human Rights Act is a case in point. Can it simultaneously affirm the right of a lesbian to get a haircut from Muslim barber, and the right of a Muslim barber to refuse it?
As it turns out, the McGregor vs. Mahrouk has a semi-happy, and I think, instructive ending. Faith McGregor has cooled off, stood back, and come to a helpful conclusion. In her own words, her claimed rights cannot override the rights of Muslim barber Omar Mahrouk. These rights are, she now realizes, “equally important — they definitely are equally important.” She continues, “They’re both steeped in history in their own right with regards to freedom of religion and what that means for the owner and the history of religion, [and] freedom of a woman to be able to be treated with respect and not be treated as something that’s subordinate to a man.”
And so a standoff has been turned into a kind of reconciliation. In a closed door negotiation at the Tribunal, lesbian McGregor and Muslim Mahrouk were able to come to a confidential agreement. She will not demand as her right something that would cancel the rights of Mahrouk. That’s a far sight better than a Christian baker being sent to jail.