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Old 01-16-2014, 09:58 PM   #39
Ellis Amdur
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Location: Seattle
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 896
Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

Perhaps the post Chris forwarded is true. Perhaps it is a self-serving shading of the facts, by the powers in the dojo. But let us assume it's true. I still see this as problematic. Caveat: given that the original situation concerned a Muslim male, let us, for the sake of continuity, continue with this religion, though one could shift to another.

Recently a Jewish player from a Dutch soccer team was banned from setting foot in Abu Dhabi because he was Israeli. (Ironic, isn't it, that Jessie Owens and other blacks and Jews competed in Nazi Berlin in the Oympics). The Dutch team cravenly accepted this, even though he was one of their star defensemen. I recall an Iranian wrestler who forfeited an international match because his opponent was Jewish, and he proudly said that he would not compete against a Jew. In fact, I was contacted a number of years ago by an aikidoka in Jordan who wished to inquire about bringing me over to teach. In the course of our conversation online, he found out I was Jewish, and he immediately cut off communication.
So, given that such things happen, what if a young man comes to your dojo and says he cannot/will not practice with Jews (and provides some pretty graphic Koranic references regarding the Jews as apes and pigs as support). So, is it an acceptable solution to simply shield him from contact with Jews, making sure that he has someone else to practice?
I would assume that there is some discomfort with this?

On the other hand, Miles Kessler is doing brilliant work, teaching aikido to combined classes of Israeli and Palestinian youth, so I am not asserting this is a given between Jews and Muslims.
OK, maybe some of you are uncomfortable, because I've focused on Islam, given that this is where we started, and in recent years, members of this religion has been particularly aggressive in asserting such religious privilege, let me make you more comfortable, by questioning what may be your own legacy, since we in the West are often so quick to condemn our own) - so how about some individual who subscribes to the Bible and believes that those of African descent are of the tribe of Ham, cursed because he saw his father drunk and naked, and refuses to practice with him or her. "I'm sorry, I cannot practice with him. The Bible makes clear that they are cursed by God."

So - quite aside from the fact that not one of the "reasonable" responders addressed the issue that I raised - that this man is training in a martial arts school and of all the religious tracts he could choose to distribute, picks one that sanctions physical abuse of women. Quite aside from THAT.

If you would, I assume, not allow someone to blatantly discriminate on ideological OR religious grounds against someone of a religious or ethnic group. Why are women not afforded the same courtesy, the same decency, the same protection? Why is this different? Is the status of women more trivial?

A last thought: Let's say I have a late-life revelation (not, under the circumstances, a come to Jesus moment) - and I change from my reformed Judaism to a very rigid Orthodox Jewish denomination, one that insists that I have no physical contact with women. Or, given that there is a mosque right down the street from where I live, I convert to Islam. And I dearly wanted to train in your egalitarian dojo. I would not make any demands to the teacher, . I would request a dojo meeting. I would explain the religious strictures I functioned in. I would tell the dojo members how much I loved aikido (or whatever martial art it was). I would state that I meant no disrespect to the women in the dojo, but that this was a religious requirement for me. Then I would ask if they, collectively, would allow me to practice just with men. I would assure them that I would abide, without resentment, whatever decision they came to. Then I would leave and wait to hear what they decided.

And if there is any confusion, this is my suggestion how you handle such things when they come your way.

Ellis Amdur

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