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Barber refuses haircut to woman on religious grounds

Mr.Tea
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Joined: Jul 9 2011

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Mr.Tea
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Joined: Jul 9 2011

I'd be curious to hear what other people think of this. Personally, I'm with the barber.

http://www.xtra.ca/public/Toronto/Toronto_barber_shop_wont_cut_womens_ha...

All she wanted was a haircut.

But when Faith McGregor walked into the Terminal Barber Shop at Bay and Dundas streets, she was shocked to hear from the owner that no barber at the shop would cut a woman’s hair because it goes against their religious beliefs. 

McGregor has since filed a complaint about the June incident with the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC). 

The shop wasn’t busy that day, she says, and two barbers were standing at the back of the store. “I asked, ‘Do you do a businessman’s cut?’ It’s a basic haircut. They said they do.”

After describing the cut, owner Omar Mahrouk stopped her. “He just looked at me and said, 'I can’t do that. We don’t cut women’s hair here.'”

Mahrouk told her “it’s against his religion” to cut a woman’s hair, she says. Mahrouk and two other barbers refused, all saying they practise Islam, which forbids them to touch strange women, she says.

For his part, Mahrouk admits that he denied McGregor service. “I can cut my wife’s hair, but not a strange lady. For me this is not discrimination. I explained that I have nothing against woman. This is my religion. She did not accept it.”


Slumberjack
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Joined: Aug 8 2005

They should have their business licence immediately suspended pending investigation, and subsequently revoked if the allegations of denial of service based on gender are founded.  Otherwise there's no limit to who they and other establishments might refuse service to behind the shield of religion.


Ken Burch
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Joined: Feb 26 2005

I'm not sure the headline is appropriate.  The barber refused to cut the woman's hair because she was a woman...NOT because she was a lesbian.  He'd have refused if she was heterosexual as well.  The issue is religious teachings on gender, not sexual orientation.

As written, the headline seems mainly to be an effort to aggravate tensions between two different factions of what straight white Christian dudes would call "The Other".


onlinediscountanvils
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Joined: Jun 7 2012

So they refused to give her a haircut because she's a woman - not because she's a lesbian, correct?

If the owner can't cut a woman's hair due to religious beliefs, then he should employ someone who can cut women's hair.

 

[cross-posted with Burch]


Ken Burch
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Joined: Feb 26 2005

Well, it was likely that more than one of us would have seen the problem, online.


Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

Yeah, I don't get where the lesbian part comes in either.  I see why Xtra mentioned it - their target audience is GLBT and is news about things happening in the community.  But it's really not relevant to the thread title on babble.

And I agree with onlinediscountanvils - it's easy to make that accommodation in the workplace - just hire someone who CAN do women's hair.  It's clear that he has a number of employees, so there's no reason why at least one of them can't be someone who can touch a woman's hair. 

I agree that people's religious boundaries must be respected in the workplace, but when two competing human rights issues bump up against each other, they both have to be accommodated if possible.  In this case, it appears to be entirely possible, and I don't think it's an undue hardship to ensure that at least one person on staff can provide service to women.


Bacchus
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Joined: Dec 8 2003

True, except possibly if this was the first time he had ever had a woman come into his shop. If it was in a primarily ethnic neighbourhood, it would be unexpected.

 

Not saying it is, just that there could be more factors in play. Why go to the expense of a barber that can cut womens hair if you never get any women in there. That barber would make no money (they get paid by the customer not a hourly wage)


onlinediscountanvils
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Joined: Jun 7 2012

Bacchus wrote:
Why go to the expense of a barber that can cut womens hair if you never get any women in there. That barber would make no money (they get paid by the customer not a hourly wage)

 

The owner doesn't have to hire someone who cuts women's hair exclusively. He can hire someone who is willing and able to cut women's hair, in addition to cutting men's hair. It's pretty simple.


Mr.Tea
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Joined: Jul 9 2011

I don't see why he should have to hire a separate barber (and take on the added expense or be forced to let go of an existing barber, which could be seen as religious discrimination) for the incredibly rare occasion (this may be the first time) when he has a female customer. Barberships (unlike salons, stylists or whatever) really cater to men. I'm sure most of them WOULD cut a woman's hair and she's said that she already goes to barber shops to get hers done. So I don't really see the problem. There are plenty of barber shops for her to go to. This wasn't a medical emergency. Maybe she has to wait a day to get her haircut at the place she usually goes to. I almost wonder if this was some sort of set up she's engaging in and targetting a Muslim business. The comments under the article produced some incredibly racist statements.

I wonder if a man went into a women's salon and asked for a bikini wax, could the female proprieter refuse, not on religious grounds, but just out of personal comfort? Should that salon have to hire a male attendant for those rare occasions when a man comes in.


Mr.Tea
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Joined: Jul 9 2011

And, yes, people are correct to point out that this was based on the fact that she's a woman, not because of her sexual orientation. Presumably,  heterosexual woman would have also been refused, though this would seem to be an issue that would primarily affect lesbian women since they seem far more likely to frequent a traditionally male barber shop.


onlinediscountanvils
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Joined: Jun 7 2012

Mr.Tea wrote:
I don't see why he should have to hire a separate barber (and take on the added expense or be forced to let go of an existing barber, which could be seen as religious discrimination) for the incredibly rare occasion (this may be the first time) when he has a female customer.

When businesspeople make poor decisions they should have to accept the consequences of their decisions, just like anybody else. This guy didn't think it was necessary to hire anyone who was willing to cut women's hair, even though the Ontario Human Rights Code says you can't deny service based on sex. If he does have to hire another barber, rather than look at it as an added expense he should remember all the money he saved by not having his shop sufficiently staffed all this time. It's not an added expense. It's the cost of doing business in Ontario. He should just feel lucky that he managed to dodge that expense until someone finally called him on it.


Mr.Tea
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Joined: Jul 9 2011

Maybe someone can clarify the rules on denying service based on sex. For example, my wife belongs to a women's-only gym. If I tried to join, I'd be turned down because I'm a man. That's denying me service based on sex. It doesn't bother me. I belong to a different gym. Some of the women at my wife's gym are Orthodox Jews or Muslims who adhere to particular standards of modesty, others are just women who may not necessarily feel comfortable working out around men, being in revealing attire, maybe feeling judged or leered at, etc.

I can see plenty of services offered where a customer might prefer to have it done by a member of the same sex or where the personing offering it may not feel comfortable giving that service to a member of the opposite sex. I mentioned the example of a man wanting a woman at a salon to give him a bikini wax. I could see it in massage therapy. Don't even get me started on sex work...


Bacchus
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Joined: Dec 8 2003

This just smells like a setup to demonize muslims yet again especially with the comments. Geez, they are like going to freedominion


Mr.Tea
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Joined: Jul 9 2011

Bacchus wrote:

This just smells like a setup to demonize muslims yet again

See, Bachus, that's my suspicion as well. I just don't get it. The woman in question, apparently, has been going to traditionally male barbershops for some time now and getting her hair cut without a problem. Personally, I've been going to the same barber ever since I arrived in Canada. People tend to stick with their barber, at least in my experience. Seems weird that she would go to this shop she's never been to before, a shop whose entire staff, apparently, is Muslim and then turn this into a big deal, rather than just finding another barber. Or going back to her old one.


onlinediscountanvils
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Joined: Jun 7 2012

Mr.Tea wrote:
I just don't get it. The woman in question, apparently, has been going to traditionally male barbershops for some time now and getting her hair cut without a problem. Personally, I've been going to the same barber ever since I arrived in Canada. People tend to stick with their barber, at least in my experience.

That's just it. Your experience isn't always representative of other people's experiences. You go to the same barber all the time. Others don't. It's not like this is the first time a woman being refused service at a barbershop has made the news. Islamophobia doesn't appear to have anything to do with this case in Ottawa.


Bacchus
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Joined: Dec 8 2003

Nope that one seemed like a landlord backpeddling on what it was trying to force the barbershop to do, unlike the rest of that barbership chain elsewhere.

 

Not like this case where it really seems like the MSM is trying to get feminists and the GBLT community to start hunting muslims


jas
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Joined: Jun 6 2005

Taking back my original comment for now. This  is a very interesting conflict of rights as defined in the Charter. 

But I do wonder what kind of "victory" the complainant hopes for here. It's certainly worthy of commentary, but most people would, in the end, simply go to another shop.

 


onlinediscountanvils
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Bacchus wrote:
Nope that one seemed like a landlord backpeddling on what it was trying to force the barbershop to do, unlike the rest of that barbership chain elsewhere.

 

That was my point. There's precedent for women not being pleased when they're denied service because of their sex. Even when Muslims aren't involved.

 

Bacchus wrote:
Not like this case where it really seems like the MSM is trying to get feminists and the GBLT community to start hunting muslims

 

What MSM? You mean Xtra and the handful of blogs that have linked to it? I've done some searching, and I can't find the story anywhere else.

And "trying to get feminists and the GBLT community to start hunting muslims"? Where do you see that in this story? It seems to have been presented in a fairly balanced manner to me. The writer allowed both the complainant and the barber shop owner to present their respective takes of the issue, and included quotes from the barber's lawyer, the communications officer for the OHRC, and the Ontario Barber Association that were all favourable to the barber. Where are the pitchforks?


onlinediscountanvils
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Joined: Jun 7 2012

jas wrote:
Is it possible for The Lesbian to go to another barber shop??

 

Presumably. Just like it's possible for Disabled People to go to elsewhere when businesses refuse to accomodate them. That doesn't make it acceptable.


jas
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Joined: Jun 6 2005

Please note my edit above. I see that the article itself did not make issue of her sexual orientation.

But your comment isn't any more valid. You're conflating discrimination with accessibility issues, when this issue is about neither.


onlinediscountanvils
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Joined: Jun 7 2012

jas wrote:
You're conflating discrimination with accessibility issues, when this issue is about neither.

 

How is this not about discrimination? The word and its variants appear 9 times in the article. Regardless of whether you side with the complainant or the barber, discrimination appears to be the issue here.


jas
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Joined: Jun 6 2005

I think the Commission will find that it's not a case of discrimination based on sex. If the barber were a restaurant owner instead, and Ms. McGregor came in for a meal, he would be able to serve her and, according to his claims here, he would serve her.

Funny that we haven't encountered this before. Are there no Muslim doctors, nurses, massage therapists, chiropractors?


Mr.Tea
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Joined: Jul 9 2011

Yes, no doubt this is discrimination. The question is whether it's justifiable discrimination. A bar refusing to serve alcohol to a 16 year old is engaging in discrimination and are legally required to do so. A bar that refuses to serve a black man is also engaging in discrimination and, in this case, is legally prohibited from doing so.

In this case, I'm not sure. Two values, freedom of religion and equal accomodation seem to be in conflict. I'd be very interested to see how this works out because it could have pretty wide ranging effects.


jas
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Joined: Jun 6 2005

Mr.Tea wrote:

A bar refusing to serve alcohol to a 16 year old is engaging in discrimination and are legally required to do so.

I don't think you would call this discrimination, except in its most broad, generic meaning, i.e., making a distinction between things. This is not the discrimination we are discussing here. Sixteen-year-olds do not have any "right" to be served alcohol.


jas
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Joined: Jun 6 2005

Probably a topic for another thread, but I was trying to think of an analogy in another industry. All I could come up with was prostitution. If prostitution were legalized and regulated, would prostitutes be allowed to turn down clients based on religion, sex, physical ability or any other reason outside of personal safety?


Mr.Tea
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jas wrote:

Mr.Tea wrote:

A bar refusing to serve alcohol to a 16 year old is engaging in discrimination and are legally required to do so.

I don't think you would call this discrimination, except in its most broad, generic meaning, i.e., making a distinction between things. This is not the discrimination we are discussing here. Sixteen-year-olds do not have any "right" to be served alcohol.

Right. The question is whether this woman has a "right" to get a haircut from this particular barber. "Discrimination" is a broad term. We discriminate against people because of their age with regards to certain things like driving, voting, drinking, etc. Universities discriminate against students who don't have certain grades. That's all fine. On the other hand, there are prohibited grounds for discrimination. You can't have a restaurant and enact a policy of "no blacks allowed". You can't discriminate based on race.

I think this situation is trickier mainly because I don't think race and sex are remotely analogous. We make distinctions about sex in all sorts of ways that we never would about race. I think it's reasonable to have separate bathrooms for men and women. It would be appalling to have separate bathrooms for blacks and whites. It's perfectly logical to have male sports teams and female sports teams. That blacks used to be barred from teams and confined to the "negro leagues" was a shameful period of history. I can understand why, for example, a woman might prefer to go to a female doctor. I'd be appalled, however, if a woman stated a preference for a white doctor. As I mentioned, my wife goes to a women's only gym. As a male, I'm fine with being discriminated against by them. I really have no greater objection to a men only barber shop, particularly if this person would be violating his religious beliefs by having it otherwise.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

This isn't about the "rights" of Muslims not to touch "strange ladies" (quoting the article). The question here is this:

Can a barber shop, which offers services to the general public (i.e. isn't a private club of some kind), refuse to serve a woman who requests a type of haircut which the shop readily provides to men? We know that barber shops are "traditionally" for men, as contrasted with stylists.

The legal answer, I think, is very clearly "no" under the OHRC, which is the operative legislation in this case.

The Code makes very specifc exceptions where offering services on a discriminatory basis doesn't violate the Code:

Quote:

Special interest organizations

18.  The rights under Part I to equal treatment with respect to services and facilities, with or without accommodation, are not infringed where membership or participation in a religious, philanthropic, educational, fraternal or social institution or organization that is primarily engaged in serving the interests of persons identified by a prohibited ground of discrimination is restricted to persons who are similarly identified. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 18; 2006, c. 19, Sched. B, s. 10. [...]

Restriction of facilities by sex

20.  (1)  The right under section 1 to equal treatment with respect to services and facilities without discrimination because of sex is not infringed where the use of the services or facilities is restricted to persons of the same sex on the ground of public decency. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 20 (1).

Recreational clubs

(3)  The right under section 1 to equal treatment with respect to services and facilities is not infringed where a recreational club restricts or qualifies access to its services or facilities or gives preferences with respect to membership dues and other fees because of age, sex, marital status or family status. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 20 (3); 1999, c. 6, s. 28 (9); 2005, c. 5, s. 32 (12).

I'm no expert on the Ontario Human Rights Code, but I have spent my life trying to figure out collective agreements, and I think the principle here is the same. The legislators stated:

1. When you offer services to the public, you can't discriminate on the basis of race, colour, disability, etc. - and sex.

2. There are some exceptions which we'll spell out in the legislation.

There's no way I can see that a barber shop serving the public (as opposed, say, to a barber within some private club) falls within any of the stated exceptions.

The Muslim thing is a bit of a red herring. This isn't about "competing rights" (sorry to disagree with the Ontario Human Rights person quoted in the story). It's about whether (for example) a landlord can refuse a Jew or a transsexual or a woman or whatever because of the landlord's religious beliefs. That's an easy "no". The solution is, don't be a landlord. Same with the Muslim barbers. Their recourse is to set up a business that falls within one of the parameters I've quoted above (or there may be some other possible workarounds in the Code that I missed).

ETA: All of Mr.Tea's examples (underage drinking, women's gyms, etc.) are covered explicitly by provisions of the Code. He may have no problem with men-only barber shops. Human rights legislation has a problem with that.

 


bagkitty
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Joined: Aug 27 2008

I think a little caution should be taken in comparing the refusal of service in this instance to refusal of service in other commercial transactions. The service that is being provided is one of personal care that involves physical contact with the customer - and, using the curious logic of believers of a number of faiths, physical contact involves the risk of ritual pollution to the service provider. The commercial transaction does not involve a simple transfer of goods... if it did, a human rights complaint would be a slam dunk for the one bringing the complaint forward. Given that it does involve physical contact, though, I suspect a human rights commission will ultimately come down on the side of protecting the right to believe whatever superstition you opt for (or your parents opted you in for) and ultimately dismiss the complaint. Insofar as I can tell from the facts provided in the story, there is no indication of animus on the part of the barber.

I am looking forward to a companion piece to this article, when a hypothetical (but likely creepy and lecherous) guy goes in to get a pedicure and is refused service by a female service provider. Strangely enough, I think he would be more likely to succeed if he launched a complaint - mostly because I am hard pressed to think of a system of superstitions where men are the ritually impure gender and hence it would be less likely that the pedicurist would have religious grounds to refuse physical contact with him.

 


bagkitty
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@Unionist

I only saw your comment after my own posted... I see your reasoning up to a point, but again, you are not referring to a transaction involving physical contact - can you think of an example where that applies? The example you offered, providing accomodation as a landlord, does not necessarily entail physical contact with the one seeking the service.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

bagkitty wrote:

@Unionist

I only saw your comment after my own posted... I see your reasoning up to a point, but again, you are not referring to a transaction involving physical contact - can you think of an example where that applies? The example you offered, providing accomodation as a landlord, does not necessarily entail physical contact with the one seeking the service.

The law doesn't require a Muslim to touch a woman. It requires a barber shop to serve a woman who is requesting (as in this case) exactly the same kind of haircut as a man. The shop can hire a less rigorous Muslim, or a non-Muslim, or stop serving the public by bringing itself within the clauses I cited, or shut down.

The point is that if there is to be an exception, it must be sanctified by law. For example, Canadian law allows religious homophobes to officiate over weddings that attain legal recognition while refusing to conduct non-straight marriages. The law says that specifically. If it didn't, the homophobes would be shit out of luck, as I pray they will be someday.

It has nothing to do with physical contact. Some very orthodox Jews (and maybe Muslims, I don't know) aren't allowed to be alone in a room with a woman who isn't a family member. That could make it difficult or expensive to run some businesses, by always needing a chaperone. But if they want to serve the public, they have to serve women. And persons of colour. And queers. And German-Canadians. And diabetics. Etc.

Hope that's clearer.

ETA: See, bagkitty, look at section 18 which I quoted above. If the barber shop were to transform itself into some non-profit entity, it could probably get away with its discrimination. But there's no constitutional or statutory right in Canada to run a commercial barber shop, so that non-existent "right" can't trump the right of women to be treated equally to men (and vice versa).

 


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