The weekly Muslim prayer at a Toronto public school that’s said to constitute an imminent threat to Canadian secularism has been going on for 11 years, with nary a complaint.
So, why the sudden fuss? Because a marginal Hindu group that’s virulently anti-Muslim made an issue of it. And the media fell for it in a way we never would have for anti-Semites and other hate-mongers.
The service at a Flemingdon Park school is not all that unique. The noon-hour Friday congregational prayers, Jum’a, are routinely held in thousands of schools, colleges, universities and businesses across Canada, including some bank towers in downtown Toronto.
Not surprising, given that the Muslim sabbath falls on a working day, not Saturday and Sunday as it does for Jews and Christians.
Valley Park School, at Don Mills and Overlea, is Canada’s largest middle school. Of its 1,200 students, 80 per cent are Muslims.
On Fridays, many were trekking two kilometres to the nearest mosque. To ease their burden in the fasting month of Ramadan, Jum’a was started in the school in 2000. For the rest of the year, however, they were still going to the mosque for two hours. Some were not coming back at all. So three years ago, principal Nick Stefanoff regularized Jum’a in the school.
It’s held after lunch when the cafeteria is vacant. Students and volunteer parents remove the chairs and tables to spread sheets for the 30-minute service, following which they rearrange the furniture and the students return to class.
Attendance is voluntary. A third of the Muslim students come. That’s about the same level of attendance as Muslims across Canada going to Jum’a. (In nations where Friday is a holiday, the turnout may be higher).
The school does not pay a penny. No staff is assigned. There’s no interference with classes, let alone the curriculum.
“It was I who initiated this with the community, not the other way around,” says Stefanoff. “We’re doing something that’s working. This has provided more instructional time. This is a good news story.”...A "good news story" for those in favour of remorseless Islamization, perhaps; really bad news for those who aren't as clueless/craven as Stefanoff and who know that a public school is a public school and a mosque is a mosque and never the twain shall meet (unless, of course, the twain happens to be in, say, Saudi Arabia, not coincidentally the provenance of most mosque/madrassah funding in Toronto).
Update: You can tell Harpoon how fond you are of public schools condoning gender segregation and special privileges for Muslims by leaving a comment here.