Islamic barberism excludes women from having a haircut

FAITH McGregor’s right to a haircut recently clashed with the faith of Omar Mahrouk, owner of the Terminal Barber Shop in Toronto.

Faith McGregor was denied a manly cut by a Muslim zeaot

Now the matter is in the hands of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC).

McGregor, 34, is reported here – (where she’s referred to as “a dyke”) –  as saying that the shop wasn’t busy that day 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 she described the cut she wanted, owner Mahrouk stopped her.

He just looked at me and said, ‘I can’t do that. We don’t cut women’s hair here.’

McGregor says she was shocked.

I just wanted the exact same cut as they would give a man. Nothing different.

She said she always gets her hair cut at a barber shop, not a salon.

Mahrouk added that “it’s against his religion” to cut a woman’s hair. He and his two colleagues practise Islam, which forbids them to touch strange women.

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 women. This is my religion. She did not accept it. The law is the law, but this is my religion. I am not discriminating against anyone.

The Ontario Human Rights Code states that business owners can’t deny service based on sex. On the surface, the Human Rights Code says that Terminal Barber Shop appears to have discriminated against McGregor based on her sex.

But it’s not that simple, says Pascale Demers, communications officer for the OHRC.

This is a case of competing rights: the individual right of a person not to be discriminated against based on their sex or gender and the right of a person to hold religious beliefs.

Generally speaking, services that are offered to the public should be made available to everyone without discrimination, based on sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability. Each side will bring forward a defence that their rights trump the other.

She says it’s a case that presents new terrain for the Tribunal.

We have been unable to find any cases like this. It’s unique. It will be looked at in an individual context, each with its own unique set of evidence. The tribunal will make a decision based on its set of facts presented to them.

If the Tribunal finds that the barber shop violated McGregor’s rights, it could order a monetary settlement or order the shop to implement a set of “public remedies,” such as ordering the shop to offer services “in a way that is considered non-discriminatory.” That may involve hiring additional staff, for example, she says.

Demers added:

It’s not a punitive process per se; it’s about bringing the person back to a place that is not discriminatory.

If Mahrouk fails to comply, she says, the saloon:

Could keep facing complaint after complaint, and it could eventually get costly.

Mahrouk says that if he is forced to serve women he will have to change his occupation.

His lawyer, David Kolinsky, says denying service on religious grounds is valid. Still, even without the religion factor, barber shops have traditionally been men only.

I understand she wants the same type of haircut that would be provided to the male patrons, but it’s more complicated than that. She wants the barber shop to be compelled to provide service to all women. That goes well above the skill set and training of these barbers.

But McGregor says that’s not true.

It seems they are extending the scope of my complaint. My specific request was for only the exact same cut they would provide to a man … We are no different from the neck up.

Sean Gibson, of the Ontario Barber Association (OBA), wrote a letter in defence of Mahrouk explaining why the distinction between “barber” and “hairstylist” justifies Mahrouk’s discrimination against women.
Gibson says barbers should have the autonomy to decide because barber shops have traditionally been male-only spaces.

In certain countries, men just service other men for religious reasons. It’s not that they don’t want to service women, but because of their religious beliefs they can only cut the hair of other men. While that may seem archaic, it’s understood. The history goes back to men-only bathhouses in ancient Greece. That’s where barber shops started. They were only places for men.

He added that  Mahrouk:

Was unable to service her because of his religious beliefs. So it’s a discussion of what’s more important: obliterating his religious beliefs or serving this young lady? Denying his rights or denying her rights?

She can still get service, maybe not from this specific place, but I’m sure one of our [OBA] members would be glad to cut her hair.

Hat tip: Trevor Blake

15 responses to “Islamic barberism excludes women from having a haircut”

  1. Marky Mark says:

    IDK…this one is pushing it. Barber Shops do not Perm women’s hair or cut women’s styles as they are a male oriented business.
    But she did want a male’s style haircut.
    Most all female oriented Salons will cut a males hair with a male style and she could have received the same style cut at a Salon…I think on this one, this woman is intent on starting trouble where there is none.

    Since no one was harmed or a life in danger because of religious belief, the only thing these guys are guilty of is loss of business to themselves…I don’t think that is a crime.

  2. Trevor Blake says:

    Barberism – ha!

    Human rights groups have dealt with this issue for decades. The military, the police and prisons tend to have regulations on hair and these regulations sometimes go against religious regulations on hair.

    I’m not an advocate of any ‘right’ to not be offended. This goes for religious and secular offense. That is part of my being a free thinker.

  3. Scethin says:

    “I am not discriminating against anyone”
    Can someone please lend him a dictionary?

  4. remigius says:

    ‘We are no different from the neck up.’

    WTF. I would have thought that a lesbian, of all people, would be aware of the differences between men and women. Anyone who has read a book on anatomy, or taken courses in osteoarchaeology (like wot I done) would bang their head on the desk at hearing such a remark.

    Absent the pelvis, it is the neck up region that determines sex. Male skulls are a different shape from females. The mandible is larger and more rectilinear. The teeth, especially the canines and incisors, are proportionally longer. The nasal cavity is larger, the malar, which articulates the maxilla, is more protrusive.

    The orbital, where the eyes are, is more rounded. And the cranial cavity is larger, men have a larger brain so need a bigger box to put it in! And the bone itself tends to be denser.

    Pretty much every bone, cavity, and tooth can be differentiated between male and female.

    I wouldn’t give her a haircut. Not because of any religious reason, but because she is talking out of her exterior sphincter!

  5. Noumenon says:

    It’s only my opinion, but I would say that in this case the person with a particular religious belief has, in a sense, found himself a role in society where his belief does not conflict with his faith. For him, touching strangers who are women is highly inappropriate (to a degree this is true for most civilised men), but his chosen career is… to style men’s hair. Hard to say what else he could do to avoid causing a problem (apart from giving up childish fantasies, of course, but anyway).

    Again, it’s only my opinion, but the modern world has a wealth of gender specific stylists of all sorts; I’m a man, but if I walked into a female-oriented salon and asked for a back-wax I’d be surprised if I wasn’t treated a little oddly, if not actually turned away. There are hairdressers that cater to both sexes, why not ask for a mannish cut from one of them? If Ontario is anything like Madrid (where I live) she could have just gone around the corner and picked one of eight other hairdressing establishments to get the work done.

    No lives are at stake here, no quality of life is endangered. This seems to be a case of needlessly dragging religion into a matter of poor customer choice. I’d take my business where it was wanted.

  6. Noumenon says:

    And by “belief does not conflict with his faith” I meant to say “job” instead of either one of those synonyms…

  7. Matt Westwood says:

    Storm in a teacup, making trouble where no trouble existed. Advice to barber’s shop: employ someone who does not have such religious prohibitions. Advice to customer: go somewhere you’ll be welcome.

    As a white male skinhead, I would feel uncomfortable going into a salon that specialises in cornrows and afros and ask for a number one, and I would accept graciously a refusal to serve me, or any other antipathy / hostility. Nothing to do with religion, more to do with respecting a particular culture’s social focal points. Nothing to do with racism either, this is just the way things are. Barbers and hair salons and the like can have strange undercurrents, borne of the intimate physical relationship the cutter has with the customer.

  8. Kryston Simon says:

    This is vexing that she would even attempt to take up the courts time with this. Would you walk in there and try to force them to eat pork. It is their faith, its not 4 or 5 people in a barbershop its millions of people, that she wants to tweak the beliefs of instead of walking 2 more blocks. This is a true idiot.

  9. Georgina says:

    While I personally, would never go to a place like that – or send my children – I feel it only fair to point out that when a hairdresser refused to employ a women in hijab (because she was looking for a trendy young punk), she was fined for discrimination.
    Here the same thing applies – sure she could go elsewhere, just as the hijab wearing hairdresser could have – the question is:
    Does on person’s religion trump everything else?

  10. Dan says:

    Religion comforts…and cripples.
    Seek the Truth, not fairy tales.

  11. Lazy Susan says:

    People are genetically male or female, so discrimination on grounds of sex is essentially the same as racism. How would it be if the barber was an unreformed Mormon and refused to cut black people’s hair? He could even “justify” it by claiming their hair was different and he was not trained for it.

    The same argument had blacks sit at the back of the bus – no big deal, surely? The bus will still take you where you want to go, what is the problem?

    If the law says that his shop policy is illegal, and he cannot accept that law, then he should be in a different line of business, or better still bugger off back to Islamistan.

  12. Ged Warren says:

    I see the Islamic barber as the real victim, forced by his beliefs to avoid contact with half the human race.

  13. Lazy Susan says:

    Ged Warren – I guess you are being flippant, but you are not far off. Very nasty beliefs, invading this man and making him a vessel for their own propagation.

  14. Matt Westwood says:

    @barriejohn: I completely agree. There are some fights which it is just not prudent to take on. IMO this is one. Take on the loud shouty shit-stirrers, but upsetting businesspeople quietly getting on with life in their own cultural enclave needs a really, really good reason.