The question of how much institutions should cater to the needs of different religious groups is a divisive issue to say the least.
Should we, as a liberal democracy, go out of our way to make sure the University provides and funds facilities to enable free and easy worship for all faiths, or should we embrace our status as a completely secular state, where people are free to practice their religions, but not imposing the cost of religious practice on non-believers?
It is a national topic that has been difficult to avoid of late, with the French banning any religious attire in schools, and more recently their outright banning of the burqa; yet the issue has now reared its controversial head in our campus bubble.
I feel I first must stress how strongly I am of the belief that the recent action by the French government was deeply flawed and nothing more than racism, thinly veiled as some inconsistent version of liberal toleration. The burqa, while symbolising oppression of women and cultural isolation to many, is also a traditional part of the Muslim faith and no government has the right to dictate the cultural and social choices of their electorate.
inconsistency of facilities for different faiths is nothing short of unfair
While the issues currently facing Jewish students on campus are not to quite the same scale, they nonetheless illustrate a similar reluctance by the University to fully embrace the multi-cultural nature of society. With Jewish students now without facilities to maintain their kosher traditions, and even a separate prayer space, as has recently been opened to Muslims on campus, it does not reflect well on an institution supposedly open to all faiths.
While I am not advocating that Commercial Services should be providing an entire kosher empire on campus, the inconsistency of facilities for different faiths is nothing short of unfair. The provisions for Christians and Muslims at York far outweigh those for Jewish students, showing a very callous attitude on the part of Commercial Services in reducing their already limited religious and kosher kitchen space. It should make little difference how many Jewish students need these facilities; just because they are a smaller group does not justify their needs being ignored completely. In fact, I believe that was what Alexis De Tocqueville would have termed a ‘tyranny of the majority’.
Providing students choice and freedom to practice their religion should not be something thrown to the wayside in an attempt to save money. After all, if the University continue to refuse to cater for a variety, there is a risk that all will be left on campus is religiously lacking people such as myself. And how bland is that?