‘Why do we tolerate this shameful gender separation?’

“Two countries, two weddings, two outcomes. In the first instance, a minister in the British government has been accused of bad manners for leaving a Muslim wedding in east London when he was asked to sit in a separate room from his wife. In the second, 41 women and children died when fire broke out in the women’s marquee at a wedding party in Kuwait….

“Muslim organisations have attacked Fitzpatrick, saying he should have respected the wishes of the bridal couple, and they defend gender-segregation at weddings and social events as a matter of ‘personal choice’. It isn’t. As the ghastly fire in the Gulf state demonstrates, insisting that men and women occupy different spaces is common in states where Islamic law is in operation. At last weekend’s wedding, male and female guests were directed to different tents and children sent to sit among the women, which is why no men died in the conflagration.”

Joan Smith – who else? – in the Independent, 19 August 2009

Update:  See letters in the Independent, 20 August 2009