A couple of days ago I was browsing the net when I came across an article titled: “Toronto barber shop won’t cut women’s hair on religious grounds“.
The whole story sounding extremely ludicrous, I decided to forget about it, but when I saw the titles of the comments below it, and read a few I couldn’t help but read the rest, and I must admit, the amount of hatred and racism these comments conveyed was really alarming, and shocking, coming from members of what should be a tolerant society in a cosmopolitan city such as Toronto. Anyway, the comments kept getting more and more aggressive and violent and I felt this itch to share my two cents here on my personal blog.
Here’s the story in summary: Ms. Faith went to the barbershop asking for a men’s haircut, the barber she asked replied -politely- that he cannot provide the service to her, explaining, politely, that due to religious reasons he is not to touch a woman. He then followed up: “but if you like you can check with one of my colleagues who can do this for you”.
Ms. Faith vowed to file a suit, and started a cold media war on him and his shop because of this.
About the Terminal Barbershop: The Terminal Barbershop chose its own theme and decoration with special attention to reserve its own old image as a retro barbershop, back when a barbershop translated into: a men’s hair-cutting shop. That’s why so many men think it’s unique and original, and a lot of people come to enjoy this retro atmosphere. More about The Terminal Barbershop.
You can also watch this video: watch?v=E0LT_d1kuhc
Anyway, let me logically explain why this “case” has no solid grounds:
1. Homophobia: gay men are part of The Terminal Barbershop loyal clientele. No gay man has ever experienced an ounce of disrespect, rejection, discomfort, harassment or humiliation. All barbers are extremely professional.
2. Discriminating Against Women: Most of the clients understand the nature of the place, it being themed as the definition of an old men’s barbershop. It doesn’t mean they hate women, these barbers have wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, friends… they just “committed the crime” of trying to have only one single place ( to thousands that are unisex) in which they reserved the identity of an old-fashioned barbershop, what’s the big deal? And when ladies like to accompany their brothers, hubbies, sons, boyfriends, friends while they have their haircut or shave they can come in and wait. Some women -whether straight or gay- who don’t know the nature of the place ask for a haircut, if the barber that was approached cannot provide the service out of religious reasons, he usually explains politely, and if no other colleague (who has no problem with touching women’s hair) is around to serve the lady, he’d simply show her the way to the nearest unisex hair salon (which is right across The Terminal Barbershop). These women showed great respect and tolerance to their fellow Canadian citizen and moved on.
3. Discriminating against lesbians: lesbians are women, regardless of their sexual preferences and stands in life. And if there’s no discrimination against women, as explained above, then by default there’s no discrimination against lesbians. Just like all men are welcome regardless of their sexual orientation, all women, to Muslim barbers -who choose not to touch women- are taboo.
Lack of consistency: there’s an obvious lack of consistency in Ms. Faith’s claims, each interview she does reads differently than the other. One time they’re refusing to serve her because she’s lesbian, another time it’s because she’s a woman; in an interview it’s because the barbers are homophobic altogether, and in another interview they’re doing it over religion… someone needs to make up her mind!
The opening line of one of the interviews went like this: “all she wanted was a haircut”, but when you read all these interviews and note the inconsistency on one hand, and think of all the time and effort wasted on this incident on the other, one can’t but start doubting the motive. Could it be fame? or a financial settlement perhaps?
Legal Stand & Suggested Legal action as a solution: cases like these promote hatred and disruptive behavior. They tear societies apart and encourage intolerance, racism and division. This is not the first case of its kind by the way, and if Ms. Faith wins this, then it’s a green card to anyone to sue anyone in the name of discrimination. Seeing the hate comments, any legal action taken against the barbershop means law’s affirmation to all these negative and violent notions. The legal solution in my humble opinion is not to force someone to do something against their beliefs or will, depriving them from the basic human right of choice and practicing religion, the solution should be as simple as giving hair salons & barbershops the simple choice of categorizing their target-clientele, just like any other business. Just like there are Vegetarian Restaurants, Men’s Fashion Stores, Women Fashion Boutiques, Women spas, Women Yoga classes, Kids Hair salons, Montessori Schools, Senior Fitness Clubs, there should be a choice for salons to be Kids, Men, Women, or Unisex salons. This way we have all kinds of services and alternatives that cater to all kinds of customers, and we avoid any uncomfortable situations either the barber or the customer may go through, but most importantly, by having the choice of categorizing , law would be able to protect businesses from unnecessary lawsuits. It’s as simple as that.
The Real lawsuit that should be filed: Ms. Faith is oppressing a Canadian citizen who belongs to a religious minority, she’s harming his and his workplace’s reputation by going to media, causing both emotional and financial harm, and therefore, the way I see it, the barbershop should sue for defamation; both slander and libel, since she’s purposely causing financial and emotional harm by wrongfully accusing The Terminal Barbershop of being sexist and discriminating against women, in published written articles, social media platforms, as well as broadcast journalism. Also the barbershop should file a lawsuit against all media groups that committed this wrongdoing.
Discussing the comments & answering some questions:
Brief explanation of religious reason: Islam is only one of other religions (there are also cultures) in which practicing members are not to touch a woman’s body/hair. Touching equals intimacy, and therefore must be limited to family members and spouses. Unless it’s a medical necessity that is. Many Muslims don’t shake hands, many do, many don’t touch a woman’s hair, many do. It’s a personal choice within the Muslim community itself. Social norms are mostly culture- or religion-related, as long as politeness is taken into consideration and as long as alternatives exist we should respect each others’ principals and choices.
But what if doctors start doing the same? In Islam, medical necessity requires from both genders to be in direct contact with the patient. A female/male Muslim doctor/ nurse, even if practicing, knows there’s no choice when it comes to medicine. It’s different.
If he doesn’t like it, let him go back to his home country! All immigrants out: this is what a lot of comments on more than one interview posted on more than one site read. First and foremost, all owners of The Terminal Barbershop are proud Canadian citizens. But like many Canadian citizens the barber in question came from a different country. And even if he was a ‘fresh immigrant’, just a resident, no one can be mean to him or kick him out. He never harassed or discriminated against anyone, all he wants is the freedom of choice and practicing his religion . For those who don’t know, unless it’s a disaster area, an immigrant goes through lots of stages, and only the crème de la crème (of those who want to immigrate) succeed in completing and passing the process of immigrating. Unlike what many ignorant people think, for an immigrant to make it here, Canada makes sure he/she meets all standards on all levels, educational, career-related, and socially. Therefore no one has the right to bully anyone on basis of color, religion, or ethnic background.
What if Ms.Faith wins? then this is the true situation in which we can say there will be no end to it. A gay man who wants to register in a women-only fitness center will be able to file a lawsuit if denied the right to do so; a lesbian who wants to use the men’s washroom will sue if someone prohibited her from doing so. A woman (gay or straight) would be sued for refusing to give a bikini wax to a man whether gay or straight… in short, it’ll be chaos, it will take away the right and freedom of choice.
I’d like to mention that homosexuals here in Canada enjoy a great deal of equality, freedom, and social recognition. They’re accepted everywhere as family members, classmates, friends, coworkers, TV hosts, nurses… etc. No one denies their equal rights to employment, participation in society, education, or anything. So it’s really upsetting when you see someone playing the discrimination card in such a society. Law should encourage coexistence, respect, tolerance and the sense of community so that Canada will always be the leader in human rights, and will always reserve its beautiful unique diversity.