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Monday, July 18, 2011
Religious groups plan to protest in-school prayer sessions
TORONTO - Muslim prayers have no place in a public school.
That’s the message the Canadian Hindu Advocacy and the Christian Heritage Party are sending the Toronto District School Board as they prepare to stage a picket outside the board’s Yonge St. head office next week.
“Enough’s enough, we draw the line here,” said G.J. Rancourt of CHP London during a press conference on Monday at the Toronto Zionist Centre on Marlee Ave. “Our holiest celebration is Christmas and we can no longer celebrate it in public schools. We don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable but we don’t want you to forget who we are. Why would (Muslims) impose your values on the rest of us when we’re accommodating?”
Security guards were at the ready for Islamic protesters at the centre but no one showed up.
Members of the Jewish Defence League and from two other Christian ministries are joining the fight against “pseudo-seculars” and to end to the Friday lunchtime prayer sessions in the cafeteria at Valley Park Middle School, on Overlea Blvd., which according to Rancourt, have been going on for at least three years.
“Let us be consistent, let us honour the Education Act,” said Rev. Tony Costa of Costa Christian Mission. “Muslims who want to pray can go to their mosques but this should not be done in a publicly and taxpayer-funded school system.”
Local imams are brought in to lead a 40-minute service with about 400 students in which the boys sit in front of girls in the lunch room. Girls who are said to be menstruating are told to sit at the very back.
Non-Muslims are banned from the room during prayers.
The coalition said the Islamic Society of Toronto is behind these prayer ceremonies.
“There is a great deal of gender apartheid going on where the women are separated from the men,” said Rob Banerjee of the Canadian Hindu Advocacy. “This is very much against Canadian values.”
The service has created controversy among parents and others who claim the
public school board should be secular and not have religious programming.
TDSB officials, who refused comment, have said the Muslim prayers are conducted in the cafeteria to address security issues stemming from students leaving classes to attend mosque.
The men allege some imams who are leading the prayer sessions belong to a local mosque that signed a petition calling for leniency of the Toronto 18 terror group.
The Islamic Society of Toronto did not return phone calls Monday night.
Meir Weinstein, of the Jewish Defence League Canada, is concerned children will be indoctrinated by radical or fundamental imams who are spreading their views.
“If these theories are taught in the public school system, it’s going to lead to tension and violence,” Weinstein said. “There’s absolutely no question about it.”
The protest outside the school board headquarters is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on July 25.