An editorial in today’s Daily Tar Heel lauds a recent decision by the Union Board of Directors at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to create a “meditation room” almost solely due to lobbying efforts by Muslim students. This is a decision I don’t particularly disagree with — the editorial does mention the fact that, since Muslims pray five times a day, it’s harder to be able to consistently rent a room each day for that purpose. As a liberal arts university, true diversity ought to be upheld; however, true diversity does not imply catering to one religion while not allowing similar privileges to other religious faiths.
Let’s be honest here and call a spade a spade. The Union might defend the “meditation room” as non-denominational since it is accessible to all faiths, but it includes a wash-basin for the explicit purpose of facilitating the Islamic ritual of Wudu. If the Union created a similar room with an optional crucifix lying around, critics would rightly call the “it’s accessible to all religions” defense a sham.
Of course, if this room were created due to the demands of and with certain features exclusively for a Christian group, the outcry would be instantaneous and overwhelming. We already saw the criticisms of the Christmas trees in Wilson and Davis libraries. The associate provost in charge of the University libraries gave the reason for removing the trees by arguing that “it didn’t seem right to celebrate one set of customs.”
But three short years later, university officials decided that a Muslim prayer room is acceptable. The default secularism usually upheld by university officials — an Americanized laïcité — is soulless in its failure to recognize the very human commitment to a higher being. A Muslim prayer room is an important step in embracing the pluralism every politically-correct liberal allegedly supports. But given past precedents, the university is choosing to institute a pluralism of favored (i.e., non-Western) religions, not actual pluralism. While this double standard is unsurprising, it is, nonetheless, grotesque.
Anthony Dent blogs at the Carolina Review Daily. He is a contributor to The College Fix.