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Multiculturalism, all the rage among today’s academic and cultural elites, is fraught with what Marxism (all the rage among the academic and cultural elites half a century and more ago) use to term “internal contradictions. It is bullying, all dressed up in the language of tolerance. Witness the dilemma posed by the airborne collision of multiculturalism and religious diversity.
In Orthodox Judaism, a man having physical contact with a woman who is not a close relative or a spouse is expressly forbidden. In a case of cultural diversity run amok, a Delta Airlines flight from New York’s JFK Airport was delayed when ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jewish men refused to sit in assigned seats because if they agreed to do so they would be sandwiched between two females.
As a result, the men refused to violate the tenets of their faith and instead stood in the aisle, causing Delta Airlines Flight #468, due to fly from JFK to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport in time for the Jewish New Year, to remain on the runway for half an hour.
This is not the first time seating arrangements have caused havoc on the runway. According to Amit Ben-Natan, a passenger who was aboard an El Al flight that encountered a similar seating-arrangement problem, “People stood in the aisles and refused to go forward.”
According to a female passenger on that same El Al flight dubbed the “11-hour nightmare,” once the plane departed for Israel, rather than return to his assigned seat the ultra-Orthodox traveler who was ticketed to sit beside her stood in the aisle for the entire journey.
Following the flight, Sharon Shapiro from Chicago started a petition to prevent ultra-Orthodox passengers from “bullying, intimidating and discriminating against women.” Sorry, but that was highly insensitive of Ms. Shapiro. One would think that a Jewish woman from Chicago would take Barack Obama’s advice and show more sensitivity toward people who act and “look different than we do.”
A similar thing happened on Delta Flight #468.
The best part of the latest scenario was not that the orthodox men refused to be seated or that they demanded a men-only section. Neither was it the potential fracas that could have broken out had the men’s fedoras blocked the view of the overhead movie screen. The most disturbing part of the Delta Jewish New Year flight was that, à la Ms. Shapiro; two female bookends accused the ultra-Orthodox guys of discrimination.
In the past, for praying in the aisles on airplanes, Haredi have been called “stupid,” and ultra-Orthodox dedication has even been compared to Sharia.
Granted, it may seem like the Haredi men unnecessarily subjected airline passengers to a brand of pious orthodoxy that doesn’t belong on a commercial airplane. Nonetheless, the female gender-equality advocates who were offended by being asked to switch seats probably consider themselves tolerant supporters of religious and cultural diversity.
Either way, Israel Radio reported that the Delta debacle was finally resolved when an American who obviously recognizes the need to show deference to difference offered to change seats with the gentlemen sporting the long beards and the big hats. In the end, what the Delta Airline seating brouhaha reveals is that, on or off an airplane, if tolerance involves a woman paying deference to a man, the line between diversity and discrimination is thin indeed. And good old-fashioned politeness can solve what ideology cannot.
Matters are far simpler when the niceties of democratic civil society can be disposed of. Saudia Airlines, the national carrier of Saudi Arabia, has encountered its own complaints about the mixing of the sexes, albeit with a different concern. The UK Daily Mail reports:
Saudi Arabia’s national airline is allegedly planning to separate male and female passengers on its flights, in accordance to strict rules enforced by the Gulf kingdom.
Gulf media report that Saudia will keep men and women segregated onboard, unless they are close relatives.
The move follows a spate of complaints from male fliers unwilling to allow other males to sit next to their wives and other female family members.
It is not their own purity that concerns the Muslim male complainants, it is the purity of their female chattel. Saudia management believes it has the problem well in hand:
‘There are solutions to this problem…we will soon enforce rules that will satisfy all passengers,’ Saudia assistant manager for marketing Abdul Rahman Al Fahd, told Saudi daily, Ajel.
It is thought that the airline will include instructions to flight booking staff at Gulf airports to keep these new rules in place.
Will females be relegated to the back of the plane, unless they can prove they are related to a male passenger? But if a married or brother and sister couple is sitting in a grouping of three or more adjacent seats, what happens if an unrelated male is booked into the third seat?
Still, it is far easier for Saudia to segregate passengers by sex than it would be for either of the two US carriers, Delta and American, serving Israel, even if they wanted to. It is almost certainly illegal under US law.