Officials from the school board were in attendance to answer questions, but mostly they just kept order as speakers took turns making speeches. Several times, Manon Gardiner, chief academic officer for the TDSB, was forced to employ a well-refined teacher’s voice to tell attendees to refrain from “cross-talk.”
Few students from Valley Park were at the meeting, save for a row of girls in hijabs.
One of them, Anna, accused “outsiders” in the room of imposing their views on Valley Park students. “We’re angry because people are telling us what’s good for us … they think we’re stupid or weak and can’t decide for ourselves,” she said.
As for the controversial issue of menstruating girls being excluded from prayer sessions, she said “if you have cramps or backaches, you don’t want to pray.”
Anti-prayer speakers dominated the dialogue, but parents and community members in support of the practice reminded the crowd that the prayers are not mandatory.
“This is a program of choice … suggestions that we want to oppose our view on others is wrong,” said one man.Not mandatory? Give me a break. As if the be-hijabbed have any choice in the matter. Did Aqsa Parvez have a choice? Did the Shafia sisters?
We know that, in fact, it is mandatory, if not officially then in fact, because sit there no matter what, no matter the pain and discomfort of "cramps or backaches." Under such circustances, how many would willingly choose to sit there, on a cold, hard cafeteria floor? (The boys, at least, get prayer mats).
That said, I have no doubt that some true believers are there by "choice." Throughout the ages, individuals have colluded in their own persecution, believing, delusionally, that the choice was in their hands.