TORONTO – One of Canada’s largest Muslim groups has denounced the worshipping of their youngsters at a North York middle school claiming it has opened a Pandora’s Box of issues and must be stopped.
The Muslim Canadian Congress joined others groups like the Canadian Hindu Advocacy and Jewish Defense League, who are calling for the Friday 12:30 p.m. service that runs from November to March to be halted or monitored to avert the spread of radicalism by Imams.
“This is a very big concern for us,” Congress president Farzana Hassan said. “We are concerned that there are some Muslim groups that are not seen as Muslims and may not be invited to pray.”
Hassan cited the Ismailis and Ahmadiyyas as not being recognized as Muslims by mainstream groups.
“This is opening up a Pandora’s Box,” she said on Tuesday. “Schools are not a good place for Muslims and Hindus to have hard feelings fester and taking root.”
The concerns follows reports by the Toronto Sun that up to 400 Muslim students are allowed to have prayer services in the cafeteria at Valley Park Middle School on Overlea Blvd.
Local Imams are brought in to lead the 30 to 40 minute service in which the boys sit in front of girls in the lunch room, where non-Muslims are banned during prayers.
The service has created controversy among parents and others who claim the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) should be secular and not have religious programming.
Meir Weinstein, of the Jewsh Defence League Canada, is concerned about radical or fundamental Imams leading the service and influencing children.
He is concerned about some of the background or teachings of the Imams.
“There has to be someone to monitor the prayer services,” Weinstein said.
“We worry if they will extend their prayers to include religious ideology,” he said, “We hope this is not a trend that will continue with the TDSB.”
Homa Arjomand, of International Campaign Against Sharia Courts in Canada, called the service a “political statement” by Muslim leaders.
“We are against this 100% because it has nothing to do with the public school system,” Arjomand said. “The Muslims are trying to influence secular institutions in Canada.”
Members of the Hindu Advocacy have already called for non-halal meat products for their students.
TDSB Superintendent of Education Jim Spyropoulos said there a number of schools in Toronto that “accommodate” students with prayer requests. He did not know how many students or schools took part.
Spyropoulos said his board has to accommodate Muslims, or other ethnic groups, due to Ontario Human Rights and TDSB policy.
“We will consider the prayer request for any group who has to pray during school hours,” he said. “We have an obligation to accommodate any group or students who may have prayer needs.”
He said the services will not be monitored because “we do not have the right to tell people how to worship.”