TDSB, Muslim Friday Prayers & Secularism

Just last week Toronto saw a relatively large demonstration taking place outside the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). This rally was against the decision made to allow Muslim students to pray within Valley Park Middle School’s cafeteria on Fridays. The topic has been a fairly hot one in Toronto over the past two months or so and continues to be spoken about within the larger community both offline and online.

What I noticed in these protests was the ugly reality of how far people have distanced themselves from their own religions – whether it be Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism or anything else for that matter – and in essence are forcing their perception (trivializing the worship of God) down the throats of Muslims. One of the videos I watched was of a woman literally being hammered by people and their opinions. Funny enough, no one really had a solid reason for as to why a simple prayer on Fridays shouldn’t be allowed in schools. Their remarks mimicked typical FOX and CNN news excerpts associating a simple prayer to Islam being a religion for terrorists and for other extremist acts. They suggest that the schools promote secularism and having prayers will start imposing religious influence within the schools. Furthermore, the demented understanding of these people towards the Islamic practices becomes clear by reviewing statements such as the following:

“This protest is to express opposition to the TDSB for pandering to Islamic interests and allowing sexist and barbaric Islamist practices into our secular schools,” by Ron Bannerjee, of the Canadian Hindu Advocacy. I would like to inform Mr. Bannerjee that the prayers first of all do not segregate between men and women and is an act of worship that both can participate in so it can hardly be considered sexist. What can however be considered sexist is the segregation of males and females during gym class or swimming lessons within our schools and perhaps awareness should be raised about that if sexism is really an issue for you. Furthermore, I and many others fail to see how standing up, bowing down and prostrating can be deemed as a barbaric Islamist practice. Prayers are something that all Muslims have to do 5 times a day irrespective of being an Islamist, or a Liberal and this is something you should live with because no Muslim, no matter how liberal they may be for your liking, will deny this.

Unfortunately, what the media isn’t explicitly showcasing are the rebuttals that have been provided to diminish this perception that the schools are somehow 100% secular in nature. Rather the media and certain groups have exploited & exaggerated this issue and have assisted with promoting more Islamophobia within the community. Just within the high school I went to almost five years ago, there were religious groups present that catered for Jewish and Christian students and they would meet up either at lunch or after school on a regular basis. Many other schools have other ethnic and religious organizations and as well as highlight their religious festivities during the year – whether it be Hanukah, Divali or Eid. Furthermore, it is our tax money that funds the well known Catholic Schools across Ontario and there doesn’t seem to be a segregation made when taking tax money out of Muslims or other non-Catholics in this regard. Needless to say, when was the last time any Muslim complained about the well known two week holidays labelled as Christmas – a holiday that really only pertains to the Christians? How about Easter long weekend?

Another interesting point that hasn’t been mentioned too often is the fact that prayers have been held at this school for the last three years. Can any of these lunatics bring proof as to how the prayers in the past three years have had any negative effect on the non-Muslim students attending this school? A point that a few have raised is that the TDSB is displaying double standards by allowing Muslims to pray while at the same time banning the “Lord’s Prayer” in order to not offend non-Christians. The difference here is that the Muslim prayers are not being enforced on any non-Muslim within the school and neither are the prayers disturbing any classes or any other part of the school curriculum. Secondly, when the “Lord’s Prayer” was removed from schools, it was a decision most decided to adhere to. Where was the commotion and protests? Quite clearly, most didn’t care if it was removed.

Of course no one is stopping the Christians today (for those that do care) to take up this issue with the TDSB and re-initiate the prayer. The problem however isn’t about reinstating the Lord’s Prayer, but on the grand scale of things I see this is a simple issue of: I don’t care about God and I won’t let you care about God.

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