Responding to requests by female Muslim students, Harvard University made a decision that angered some students: and, I suspect, disappointed many more.
Harvard now has set aside 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays to women, and only women, at the Quadrangle Recreational Athletic Center.
I can't help but think that Harvard is caught in a four-way squeeze play.
- Muslim students who are women don't want to put on a jiggle-and-bounce show for the guys, want gym time when they can work out without an audience
- The Harvard College Women's Center, apparently deciding that promoting non-westerness and excluding men outweighed understandable concerns about seeming to support modesty and traditional values, agree with the muslimahs
- Harvard men are, understandably, angry
- Some, like Nicholas Wells, on the magnanimous grounds that the hours given are "useless to women" and "unjust to men"
- Others, I suspect, because they feel that women-only gym time unjustly deprives them of their cultural right to watch young women gyrating around the gym
- Harvard women, apart from the six Muslimahs who went to the Women's Center and the Women's Center power base, are likely to become split into supporters of the women-only gym time, and those who for one reason or another like the post-sixties customs of putting hot, sweaty young women and men together for vigorous physical activities
The question of whether Harvard will decide to continue providing time and space for women who prefer to not be on display for men during at least a few hours each week does tie in with the War on Terror.
The request for a modest amount of exercise time came from Muslim women.
If the War on Terror is challenging many of the Islamic world's assumptions, particularly for Muslims living in America, the reverse is also true.
Muslims in America are beginning to force this country's cultural and academic leaders to take a close look at their own quaint assumptions.
Nicholas Wells may be right, that the current Harvard policy for women who want to be modest may be a "lose-lose" situation. At least for Harvard and some on the Crimson student body.
However, I think that for America as a whole, and possibly the entire western world, the focus which the War on Terror is putting on traditional values of a minority which cannot, by America's politically correct rules, be ignored, will be a win-win situation in the end.
More in "Harvard Sets Women-Only Hours for Gym, Complying With Muslim Students' Request" FOXNews (March 2, 2008)
Related posts, on Islam, Christianity, Religion, Culture and the War on Terror.