Ignatius Teo wrote:
For starters, I don't think the religious beliefs issue should be brought into the dojo. It should be left outside the door, together with one's shoes and ego. If one cannot relinquish any of the above, then they should remain outside the dojo where they would be more comfortable in their own insular world.
All sort of things get brought in the door - as I noted above, accommodations are commonly made for all kinds of situations. Personally, I don't think that a person ought to be made to abandon their religious beliefs in order to practice Aikido unless there is a clear and onerous burden on the other participants. Now, people may have various opinions, but I would say that the burden incurred here is more of a molehill than a mountain.
As a parallel example, I discussed the case of the student that I mentioned above (the orthodox Jew who didn't want to bow to the picture of O-sensei) to more than one of O-sensei's Japanese students, and their reaction was uniform incredulity that the question even had to be asked - the gist of the answers was "if you don't want to bow then don't bow". This was also the attitude generally adopted by the Japanese people that I discussed this with. Interestingly, more than a few American Aikido students and instructors were of the opinion that the student should be either made to bow or not allowed to participate. Maybe people should just relax a little bit and ask themselves whether small accommodations like these are really worth the trouble of working up such a sweat.