There are many things about this story I find disturbing, the bulk of which could rightly be classified as Islamophobic and/or anti-Arab ethnocentricity and biogotry. However, there are some legitimate criticisms that Debbie Almontaser’s detractors have pointed-out; sadly, few if any actually applied to her and the school.

I live just outside of Dearborn, Michigan. I have been involved in a relationship with an Arabic man who is also a practicing Muslim the past five years. Many of my online and offline friends are Middle Eastern and/or Muslim, so I’m no hater.

That having been said, I find the pattern of refusing to integrate into mainstream American society by some of my neighbors and friends disturbing, and the entrenched sexism of many people of Arabic heritage in my community both threatening and offensive – not because I don’t respect their right to their beliefs, but because I value my Constitutionally-guaranteed civil liberties and their supreme role in American society more.

I reject segregation based on gender outright; no one has a right to bar me from a university gymnasium or a public pool because there are women there whose religious beliefs make it a problem for them.

I reject pharmacists and medical providers refusing me or anyone else legal treatments and/or medications based on their prejudices, whatever their source might be.

I reject cabbies or any other service provider being able to refuse a fare to someone carrying alcohol, just as I would reject a grocer refusing to ring-up a purchase of ham (which I don’t eat, incidentally).

Unlike most Middle Eastern countries, there are no penalties for holding these beliefs, and it is not even a crime to act on them. However, there are and should be consequences.

I have have lived near and been friends with people from Turkey to Palestine to Yemen nearly half my life. I shop in local Middle Eastern markets, I go to an Arabic barber, and I respect and understand the contributions that Arab and Persian society has made to the West throughout history, but bridging cultural gaps is a 50-50 proposition, and just because the bulk of American society is still too fearful and ignorant to meet the Islamic world halfway doesn’t justify the failure of so many people of Middle Eastern descent to do their part bridging the cultural chasm that separates us.