Muslim prayers at Toronto school provoke outcry

A Toronto school’s accommodation of student religious beliefs by allowing imams to lead them in prayer in its cafeteria has provoked a public outcry by parents and others demanding secular schooling.The parents are backed by Hindu, Jewish and even one Muslim group that fear radicalization of students at the Valley Park Middle School by fundamental imams leading the services.The school board’s Jim Spyropoulos told the daily Globe and Mail the arrangement allows for some 300 observant students at the school to attend prayer without leaving school property and missing classes.“I think it’s important to note the prayer isn’t conducted under the auspices of the board,” he said.But the Canadian Hindu Advocacy, the Jewish Defense League and the Muslim Canadian Congress this week voiced strong opposition to the arrangement, now in its third year.Islamic groups are “imposing their view and trying to change the rules, regulations, norms and values to accommodate themselves, and in the long-term, to spread their ideology,” Ron Banerjee, director of Canadian Hindu Advocacy, told the Globe and Mail.”Pretty soon we’re going to have 50 different ethnicities and religions asking for different accommodations.”

For its part, the Muslim Canadian Congress asked for the services to be halted or closely monitored to avert the spread of radicalism, and decried the exclusion of some.Local imams are brought in to lead the 30 to 40 minute service in which boys sit up front and girls sit in the back of the cafeteria and non-Muslims are banned outright during prayers, explained Congress vice president Salma Siddiqui.”There is no reason for children not being Muslim to be forced to sit outside,” she said. The Congress noted that Ismailis and Ahmadiyyas were also excluded as they are not recognized as Muslims by mainstream groups.

“The Toronto district school board officials are at best being naive,” Siddiqui concluded. “It’s political correctness. They want to show that they are accommodating.”But at the end of the day it’s going to work against them,” she said, saying it bolsters societal differences.Christian prayers commonly started each day at Canadian schools until 1982 when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect and obligatory school prayers became a violation of students’ rights to freedom of conscience and religion. – Yahoonews