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Should Male Barber Shops Be Forced To Give Lesbians Male Haircuts?

Faith McGregor stepped into the Terminal Barber Shop on Bay St. for a lunch-hour haircut, requesting a butch-style “businessman,’’ short on the sides, tapered, and trim up top. Co-owner Omar Mahrouk demurred, as did two other barbers working that day, explaining that his Muslim faith prohibited him from touching a woman who was not a member of his family. McGregor was displeased, claims to have felt like a second-class citizen, and denounced Mahrouk. “You are sexist,’’ she stated before leaving. “For me it was just a haircut and started out about me being a woman. Now we’re talking about religion versus gender versus human rights and businesses in Ontario,” said McGregor. She filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario almost immediately, saying she felt like a “second-class citizen.” Mahrouk’s response to the tribunal, provided through his lawyer David Kolinsky, doesn’t dispute McGregor’s complaint but says being forced to cut a woman’s hair would violate his freedom of religion. “We live for our values. We are people who have values and we hold on to it. I am not going to change what the faith has stated to us to do. This is not extreme — this is just a basic value that we follow,” said Karim Saaden, co-owner of the Terminal Barber Shop. He noted that it was a matter of adherence to faith, not a gender issue. “In our faith, for instance, I can cut my mother’s hair, I can cut my sister’s hair, I can cut my wife’s hair, my daughter’s hair,” said Saaden. The barbershop suggested a solution to McGregor toward the end of August, offering her a haircut from a barber willing to do so. “It’s the principle of the matter so I turned down their lawyer’s offer and said, ‘No, I wish to continue with the tribunal,’ because this needs to be discussed and now it’s bigger than what occurred with me that one day, in one afternoon,” said McGregor. She is asking the tribunal to force Terminal Barber Shop to offer its men’s haircuts to both genders, and suggests in her application that the shop post a sign indicating it serves both men and women. She is not seeking money. So who do you side with? The Lesbian or the Male Barber?

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