Since about 15 years, I held a two week course for master and PhD students on “molecular carcinogenesis”. Since we receive money from the European Union for this, the course is announced Europe wide and usually more than half of the students come from other countries. I always see it not just as a scientific training measure, but also as a good occasion to bring together people of different cultures with different social, political or even religious background. Over the years, there were not only all European countries represented by students to the course, but even students enroled who came from the US, China, Marocco, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Japan. In some years, the course started while there was still snow in Munich, and the students had to go to buy some warmer closes. Some students picked one of the un-pronounceable Bavarian dishes at the canteen, and were sitting helpless in front of a big amount of Sauerkraut. But usally, after these first cultural shock-waves broke apart on the shorelines of daily lectures and practical work in the lab, they all began to enjoy and accomodate with the students life in Munich.
Of course there were also students of different religious background, but this is usually something no one mentions in its CV or application form. Sometimes they talk about it, but usually only as a matter of cultural inheritance or certain eating preferences. This year one of the students is an Egyptian, who is currently doing her PhD in the UK. Already on the first day she wanted to know where in our institure she can find a muslim prayer room. We don’t have on our campus any religious sites, no church, no Buddha temple, no synagogue and no islamic prayer room or mosque. The only exception is our canteen, who in respect for the many scientists who worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster (PBOH) serve at least one pasta dish every day.
Anyhow, considering my long-lasting obsession for woman weiring a hijab, I offered the student girl a small room that is rarely used by anyone else. It is covered with clean carpets and only occasionally someone would disturb her there. She also gave me a list of other facilities she would require over the two weeks: a hallal restaurant, a mosque and an oriental bath. I found it all out and gave her a list with addresses, hoping that this all will help her spend the time after the lectures and the weekends.
But soon I recognised that even during the scientific lectures her main concern were the islamic rules of prayer. Her eyes were almost fixed to her smart-phone, on which she runs an app that calculates the required prayer times. And without any announcement, she can jump up, leaving the lecture room to do her prayer, which can last up to 20 minutes and means that she frequently misses a central part of the scientific content. Since we give always 3 lectures a day, one can assume that she hardly followed any of those without her 20 minutes prayer intermezzo.
This is in my eyes a fierce example of religious intollerance towards science. If somebody thinks that a prayer to a fictious deity is more important than a science lecture, they should better look for a future as a housewife in a kitchen. There they might burn the food if they fall in a 20 minutes religious trance, but they wont occupy seats in the lecture hall for other students, who are more dedicated to science.