Tuesday, July 19, 2011

...As Long As It's Not "Blatantly Christian"

Here are some more reflections on the "mosqueteria" scandal. It's interesting to go through some of the comments in defense of the Muslim prayers in public schools. While some argue that these girls simply don't mind being kept apart from the rest of their schoolmates (including girls,) others claim this is about freedom of religion:
Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of religion while the Ontario Human Rights Code specifies the duty to accommodate. There is no “undue hardship” in allowing Muslim students to participate in their Friday prayers on school property.
Religious services were banned under the Education Act because, at the time, it was common for schools to begin the day with the Lord’s Prayer. This blatantly Christian ritual was forced on all students regardless of faith.

The amended Education Act put a stop to mandatory prayers. However, I am not aware of it ever being used to stop devout Christians from saying grace before lunch.

Mallick, like the Tarek Fatah she quotes, believes government should tell people how to practice their religion. Fortunately, Canada is a free society where people are allowed to follow their own beliefs within the limits set by our laws. It would be criminal to see this overturned to selectively target Muslim youth.H/t Scaramouche
It's interesting how he supports the exclusion of a "blatantly Christian" ritual from public schools but justifies holding a Muslim prayer service (a blatantly Muslim one, if we use his own words,) which he compares to merely saying grace.

Could it be that he doesn't notice the difference between whispering a quick prayer before meal or even - stepping into an empty room to kneel in prayer (the kind of accommodation I witnessed at CDI college in Ottawa) and gathering the children in the cafeteria for a full-scale Muslim Friday prayer, for which a Muslim cleric is brought into the school? If some other group of students chose to use the same cafeteria to recite the Lord's prayer (let alone - bringing in a priest to deliver a Christian sermon) - would he support it? What do you think?

G.Dale claims that the Lord's prayer was forced on all students regardless of faith and that's why, he suggests, it was banned from public schools. The truth is - there were exemptions available for the non-Christian students, except that the civil liberties groups and later the courts didn't find them sufficient. They argued that it's not so easy to go against the crowd, that it's too intimidating for a student to remain seated when everybody around gets up to recite the prayer. Remaining seated, staying in the classroom when, out of some 30 students, all but 5 or 6 get up and go to the "mosqueteria" for the Muslim Friday prayer service is no less intimidating. (Not to mention that those who attend the prayers get to skip classes, which is another incentive for those remaining to join them.)

So it wasn't really about forcing a "blatantly Christian" ritual on all students regardless of faith. The dispute was about whether or not an important part of Canada's Christian heritage still had a place in the public schools. In the end it was decided that inclusiveness and multiculturalism (let alone separation of the Church and state) prevail. But somehow, those same principles that were used not just to ban the Lord's prayer but to cleanse public schools from any reference to Christianity, don't apply when the religion that is being practiced (and actively promoted) on the public school grounds, happens to be Islam. Somehow, neither the official secularization of public schools, nor the concerns of those students who might feel excluded for not participating, matter in this case. If this is not double standards then I don't know what is.

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