A woman walks into a barbershop.....
Wow. It's been a long time since I have had as many calls, e-mails and text messages about a topic. But there's a reason why Faith McGregor's story has caused such a stir; it hits on so many social fault lines, it makes your head hurt.
McGregor works in the downtown and prefers a man's haircut. When her usual barbershop was all full up she tried another one. The barber said he couldn't handle her because she was a woman and as a Muslim that was a violation of his faith. She asked to see another barber. They were all Muslims. She didn't get the cut. That prompted McGregor to file a human rights complaint.
It's a unique case because McGregor has the right to equal service but people of faith also have a right to have their religious preferences respected. Deadlock.
Here's why this case captivates: it's about faith versus secularism. It's about multiculturalism and integration. It's about how vexatious the whole human rights tribunal system is to many. But it goes further than that. It actually exposes a lot of hypocrisies in our society. McGregor is an out lesbian and no small number of callers and texters called her a trouble maker. Problem is these same people weren't thrilled about the idea of Muslims trying to perpetuate the very unCanadian notion that woman are second class citizens. You have to apply some pretty interesting tests to your thinking. If you are inclined to defend the right of a barber to pick and choose his clients are you also ready to go to bat for the taxi driver who wont pick you up if you have booze or a dog? If you think a Muslim should put up and shut up do you also think Christians who want to take their kids out of sex ed should do the same? And if you don't like the gays AND the Muslims, which side do you choose anyway?
This case is a perfect storm which is why we'll be talking about it for some time to come.