Stoke-on-Trent City Council has issued guidelines to schools on how to treat Muslim pupils during the month of Ramadan. Based on recommendations from the Muslim Council of Great Britain it suggests among other things, that swimming lessons should not be scheduled during Ramadan in case pupils swallow water when they are supposedly fasting.
Other suggestions include rescheduling of exams to avoid Muslims being disadvantaged as a result of disrupted sleep patterns (many get up early so they can eat before dawn, they will not eat again until after dusk).
Now actually, these things don’t strike me as too unreasonable, especially since Ramadan usually falls in August through early September when most schools are on summer break anyway. But what is interesting about this is that the Muslim Council are implicitly saying that holding to the Muslim faith is a handicap when living in a non-Muslim country. These religious observances, rather than enhancing the lives of their children are in fact imposing a burden that requires special measures by the community to compensate.
What they are doing in fact is disabling children in the name of religious observance. The viral meme passed from parent to child rendering them less fit to compete in a non-islamic culture.
I am not suggesting that we should not accommodate this particular disability, any more than I would suggest that any learning challenged child should not be supported. After all it is not the child’s fault they have been saddled with this handicap, it is entirely the fault of their parents.
It is of course my contention that all religious belief is ultimately disabling wherever it is found, but when it exists in the culture that spawned it the effects are less pronounced because the accommodations are already in place, but the Muslim Council has here highlighted the truth of this by their own recommendations.
"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"