Canada: Brampton mayor condemns ‘hateful’ campaign against Muslim prayer in Peel schools

Source: The Star

By Peter Goffin

Linda Jeffery

Linda Jeffery – Mayor of Bramptom since 2014. We should define broader religious freedoms for every religion in the general paradigm of Secularism

Peel District School Board says campaign requests run ‘counter to board values.


Protestors staged a march Saturday in Mississauga to demonstrate against religious practices in schools. The ongoing campaign against religion in schools has been called “anti-Muslim” by politicians and board officials.  (ROB BEINTEMA / MISSISSAUGA NEWS)  

A campaign calling on the Peel District School Board to end the accommodation of Muslim prayer in schools has been condemned by board officials and Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey for spreading “hateful” misinformation.

At issue is the practice of Jummah, a Muslim congregational prayer held each Friday around midday.

Peel students have performed Jummah in school for several years, but a new religious accommodation policy enacted in January has sparked vitriol at school board meetings, a public protest and a petition.

“It’s been getting more aggressive with each passing day,” said Jaskaran Sandhu, spokesperson for Jeffrey’s office.

On Saturday, around 200 people held a march starting near Square One in Mississauga to demonstrate against “religious practices in public schools.”

Flyers advertising the march included contact information for Canada First, a group whose stated mission is to protest the federal Liberals’ “anti-Islamophobia” motion.

On March 6, self-described “concerned parents” launched an online petition demanding that the board “immediately discontinue . . . religious clubs and religious congregations of any religion.”

Gayathri Iyer, spokesperson for the petition’s organizers and the mother of two Peel students, said the petition was specifically inspired by concerns about Jummah.

The petition claims that “religious congregations” in schools lead to segregation, interruption of studies, increased costs to taxpayers, bullying of non-observant students, and “unsolicited exposure to religion” that could “create subconscious bias in the minds of impressionable children for or against a faith.”

Board spokesperson Brian Woodland called the petition “pure and deliberate misinformation,” and a “campaign against Islam, counter to . . . our own board values.”

“It has been frustrating and disheartening to see hatred and prejudice toward a single faith group disguised in a supposed campaign about religion in schools,” Woodland added.

Youtube videos taken at a town hall-style school board meeting in January show men named Eric Brazau and Ron Banerjee accusing Islam of promoting violent acts.

In 2014, a man named Eric Brazau was sentenced to nine months in jail for promoting hatred of Muslims and criminally harassing a Muslim family.

A man named Ron Banerjee runs Canadian Hindu Advocacy, a group previously described by the Star as “a militantly anti-Muslim organization.”

Neither Banerjee nor Brazau could be reached for comment.

Brampton mayor Jeffrey addressed “the recent misinformation and hateful speech surrounding the accommodation of Muslim prayers” in a written statement last week.

“Over the last two decades Muslim students in schools across the Region of Peel have been accommodated for Friday prayer,” Jeffrey wrote.

“The Ontario Human Rights Code mandates religious accommodation . . . Muslim students require a time to pray that may happen during a school day, and we must respect that — as we do any other religious requirement.”

The Ontario Human Rights Code states religious accommodations may be withheld only if they create “undue hardship” in the form of cost or health and safety risks.

“Letting Muslim students pray for 20 minutes in an empty space with the supervision of volunteer staff does not cause any financial hardship,” Jeffrey wrote.

The accommodation of Jummah in Peel schools gained public attention in 2016, when the board created a new policy requiring students to read from scripted, board-approved sermons.

Following a backlash from Muslim community members, the policy was overturned. In January of this year, the board issued a new accommodation policy allowing students to write their own sermons or choose from a bank of scripted ones.

“Regretfully there has been growing xenophobia against people of the Islamic faith being spread recently,” said Peel board trustee Nokha Dakroub, who supported allowing students to write their own sermons.

“I wonder if the renewed opposition to (Jummah) is a byproduct of that sentiment.”

Editor’s note: This article has been edited from a previous version to correct that the march started near Square One.


Categories: Americas, Canada, Islamophobia

Tagged as:

1 reply

  1. The Muslim community has been passing through a phase of fourth Crusades. The battleground is the field of education, where the young generation will be educated properly with the Holly Quran in one hand and Sciences in other hand to serve humanity. A true Muslim is a citizen of the world, which has become a small global village. We are going to prepare our youth to achieve that objective in the long run. A true Muslim believes in Prophet Moses and the Prophet Jesus and without them one cannot be a Muslim. My suggestion is that in all state, independent and Christian based school special attention should be given to the teaching of Comparative Religion and Islam should be taught by qualified Muslim Teachers to make the children aware the closeness of Islam to Christianity and Judaism which will help them to think about Islam, as “A Pragmatic and Modern Way of Life,” during their life time. Those state schools where Muslim children are in majority may be opted out as Muslim Academies.

    A civilisation is measured not by the rights it grants its majority but the privileges it allows its minorities. Muslim families are as entitled as any other religious group to schools that nurture their children’s faith. Muslim pupils should be educated in Muslim schools because the current system is marginalising them. Teaching Muslim children in a Muslim school would remove the “problem of them being exposed” to values that conflict with Islamic faith. Muslim pupils are disadvantaged and marginalised in the city’s state schools because the cultural heritage of the curriculum is “European and Christian”.

    Muslim schools provide an education in accordance with the Muslim beliefs and values, such as providing single-sex schooling after puberty. They are thus a response to the danger of absorption into the dominant culture.

    I have been campaigning for state funded Muslim schools with Muslim children for the last 47 years. I set up the first Muslim school in London in 1981. Now there are 188 Muslim schools and only 28 are state funded. The medium of instruction is English and all of them follow British National Curriculum along with the teaching of Islamic studies, Arabic and Urdu, so that Muslim children could develop their cultural, linguistic and spiritual identity and enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry, otherwise, they would be lost in western jungle.

    Speaking English does not promote integration into British, American and Australian societies, and broaden opportunities. English speaking Muslim youths are angry, frustrated and extremist, thanks to state schools with monolingual non-Muslim teachers and English language. English language is not only a lingua franca but also lingua frankensteinia. Human right are also covers linguistic right. Cultural and linguistic genocide are very common. British schooling is murdering community languages like Arabic, Urdu and others. English is today the world killer language. Linguistic genocide is a crime against humanity and British schooling is guilty of committing this crime. Language is not just a language. It defines one’s culture, identity and consciousness. It defines how we think, communicate and express ourselves. The fact is the most South Asian Muslims have come to know Islam by way of Urdu, the children’s alienation from the language that connects them the heritage of their parents and grandparents is disturbing. As a matter of fact, one has to get to know his mother tongue well if one is to master any other language.

    Muslim children in state schools with non-Muslim teachers are not in a position to develop positive self-confidence and self-esteem. Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.

    There are hundreds of state and church schools where Muslim children are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be opted out as Muslim Academies. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.

Leave a Reply