Join 3,382 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Debate in Toronto over presence of religion (and sexism?) in public schools
July 11, 2011 3:43 PM   Subscribe

Debate in Toronto over presence of religion (and sexism?) in public schools Toronto's Valley Park Middle School exposes flaws of religious accommodation? A photo from the Toronto Star of Muslim Middle school student's praying during school sets off Canadian news journalists and religous groups.

For the last few years Toronto's Valley Park Middle School has held prayer services in its cafeteria after non-Muslim students are finished lunch. This has been done to accommodate faith needs according to the Toronto District School Board, freedom of religion in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms supercedes the Education Act. Also.
Tasha Kheiriddin of the National Post is furious after seeing the image posted in the Star of girls segregated during prayer and during their time of the month. Accommodation For Muslim Students Divides Community.

Muslim civil rights groups have commended the Toronto District School Board for making accommodations.
Hindu groups have made their position known.

Some more legislative information:
School Prayer in Ontario public schools was decided in this crucial case: Zylberberg v. Sudbury Board of Education (Director). Summed up here. Long (and hard to read) full decision here
posted by devonia (121 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
This raises the objections of a right-wing rag and an explicitly anti-Islamic group into something wracking Toronto with doubt. Let's be clear that the majority of Torontonians don't particularly give a shit about this "issue."
posted by mobunited at 3:59 PM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Let's only have accomodations for Christians, who get lots of their holy days and their Sabbath off, and Jews, who only get their Sabbath off. That seems far more fair to all religions.
posted by jeather at 3:59 PM on July 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


Public school is simply not the place for a display of faith.
posted by karmiolz at 4:00 PM on July 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


The issue makes me uncomfortable in a lot of ways, especially because of the ways girls are treated. But one thing I think is important to remember is that Ontario public schools already offer a huge accommodation to Christian students -- not being open on their Sabbath days in the first place. Finding a way to offer some accommodation to Muslim students who are obligated to attend school on their holy days doesn't seem wildly unreasonable to me.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:00 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would prefer if religion were kept out of public schools entirely, but this seems a bit of an overstatement:

"The most significant problem is that allowing Islamic religious services to be conducted in a public school is unfair to non-Muslims, non-believers, and even Muslims themselves. If students are to be categorized based on their parents’ religion (itself a mistake), then the school board is obligated to treat all such groups equally. There are only two possible ways to do this: open the school to every religious, or erect a wall of separation between public schools and religion."

I realize I'm reading an opinion piece and they've gone for a polemic, but if the school has a large Muslim student body I can see why one religion is granted this privilege. Not to mention that not every religion requires special accommodations at school. AFAIK most forms of Judaism and Christianity can be practiced at home and other than church or Temple on weekends don't really require people to pray with any particular frequency or timetable.

It's not really a school-sanctioned event as far as I can tell, they just make their space available and allow Muslim students to attend instead of leaving school early and missing class altogether. In my mind it's more detrimental to have the school be in the middle of all this bickering than to allow a significant portion of students to practice their religion once a week without imposing anything on other students.
posted by Hoopo at 4:06 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I thought about our dilemma, and I came up with a solution that I honestly think works out best for one of both of us. -GLaDOS
posted by Slackermagee at 4:08 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whoops, sorry, meant to attribute that quote to christian politicians who came up with the various christian stat holidays. My bad.
posted by Slackermagee at 4:09 PM on July 11, 2011


I remember running into a friend and there was such a marked difference in his demeanor — echoing tranquility — that I asked him where he'd been: praying, he said.

I understand the importance of secularism. My university had an interfaith prayer/mediation room, which is just a quiet room with a carpet. Is this really a bombastic display of religion? Does it really interfere with the purpose of the school?

With our biggest problems in schools being violence and apathy, I think that fighting over a prayer room is crazy. Instead of branding it Muslim praying hour, they should just call it interfaith meditation hour.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 4:09 PM on July 11, 2011


[photo] "The girls sitting at the back during Friday prayers are menstruating and not allowed to sit with everyone else."

Nice. That's quite the progressive environment they have at Valley Park Middle School.
posted by MikeMc at 4:09 PM on July 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm torn as well; I'm not in favour of religious services in public schools - religion is a private matter for families to deal with.

But at the same time, Christians don't have to go to school on Sunday, nor Jews on the Sabbath. This school started the service because a very large number of their students were leaving school to go to the mosque and missing more time from the classroom because they didn't come back after services.
posted by jb at 4:09 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nice. That's quite the progressive environment they have at Valley Park Middle School.

I doubt the school has anything to do with that.
posted by Hoopo at 4:10 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I doubt the school has anything to do with that.

It occurs during the school day, on school property with official sanction.
posted by MikeMc at 4:13 PM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


It encourages social cohesion among students of different backgrounds, which can only be a positive outcome -from the Post article.

It occurs during the school day, on school property with official sanction. - MikeMc.

What's the alternative? If I remember this situation correctly (and if not, it's happened in another one that I'm cross-thinking), this program was instituted in order to keep the kids from cutting or being pulled from class and going to the mosque. Instead of losing the entire afternoon, half an hour is lost.

Don't get me wrong, I don't like it. However, I think it's the best of a bad set of choices.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:17 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


MikeMc, the school's position on the issue is in the links above:

"In the case of Valley Park, the school is not teaching the “religious practice.” Rather it is accommodating for the religious and spiritual needs of the students like many other schools do around the country for a number of different faith communities. Providing this religious accommodation does not violate any Board policies since the service is not a Board or school activity.

There have been concerns expressed that the practice of Islam separates individuals by gender. We do not have the authority to tell faith groups how to pray. The division of the sexes which occurs during the service is a part of the Islamic faith. Students who participate in the prayer services do so voluntarily and with parental permission, and no one is obligated to participate."

Seems reasonable to me. They are accommodating space for the practice, not officially sanctioning the separation of genders as school policy.
posted by Hoopo at 4:20 PM on July 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


I would love to see how the Toronto school board would react if any other religious group asked to segregate students by gender, and ban menstruating girls from participating in the segregated activity. On school property. In school hours. With the school's blessing.

One thing I can guarantee you, Mefites wouldn't be dismissing concerns as the products of a "right-wing rag."

Religious accomodation has already gone too far in Toronto schools. Muslim girls don't need to participate in swimming on sex ed classes, which, as Chris Selley (he of the "right wing rag") points out, "enhance Muslim girls’ chances of drowning and getting herpes, respectively." (I'm guessing their parents don't let them receive the HPV vaccine, either, so we can add cervical cancer to that list.)

It's a public school. Should it be facilitating an activity that implictly teaches girls that they are second-class, and that they are dirty when they have their periods? Let's be clear that the majority of Torontonians do give a shit about these sorts of issues.
posted by Dasein at 4:22 PM on July 11, 2011 [25 favorites]


In Ontario, we have a publicly funded Catholic school system in addition to the secular public one. This is hardly unreasonable accommodation compared to that.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 4:23 PM on July 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


You know, I'm all in favor of making schools more religiously neutral, but prayer mainly involves standing very still and looking wise, and I guess it might be possible for the beatitude to radiate and give your fellow students a rash or something, but I don't think it's a huge risk.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:23 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


"They are accommodating space for the practice, not officially sanctioning the separation of genders as school policy."

I understand that they are just allowing them to utilize the space but I guess I'm just looking at it from an American perspective where these sorts of things are only, supposed to be, allowed on school property outside of school hours (bible study groups etc...).
posted by MikeMc at 4:25 PM on July 11, 2011


It's also probably useful for Americans reading along to remember that Canada does not have an establishment clause. Ontario has an entire school system dedicated to Catholic Students, and its very existence is enshrined in our Constitution.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:25 PM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


...if the school has a large Muslim student body I can see why one religion is granted this privilege.

But which Muslims, how and how much?

The issue here is that it does not allow for freedom of religion within the religion. The school's job is not to hinder my choice in belief expression, but neither is it necessarily fair to facilitate it to that degree. For example let us say I am a 13 year old, gay Muslim girl who is getting antsy with doing the full package of my faith. Not only will I have to fight my parents, but now the school is actively collaborating to keep me in one particular box.

Furthermore hosting these things in a school specifically favours whichever religion gets to do this. In New Brunswick, there is a legal clause that allows for this sort of religious education time as an optional extra, used exclusively (as far as I've seen) for confirmation prep offered for Catholics. However the lunch time program specifically puts a social stamp of approval onto it to the point where other kids at my elementary would go to this who weren't Catholic, making it free indoctrination thanks to a captive audience.

I see the logic in doing it, but I also see the draw backs. another example was the Muslim society at UNB-SJ. Lovely idea, as far as making the small minority of Muslims not feel so alone on holidays... except again a bunch of patriarchal nonsense that meant the society was not evenly granting service to both genders. For example the Ramadan banquets were men only and the female Muslims had to sort themselves out, a fact that was genuinely distressing for a female friend who was a member of this society. If any -other- group had specifically excluded women (or hell, men, since the even the so called women's resource centre would give all services to anyone, even the free tampons) they'd have funding and use of space yanked.
posted by Phalene at 4:27 PM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Instead of implicitly teaching girls they are second class (which I am not sure the school is doing, though I do have some objections about having an imam in), let's explicitly teach all non-Christians that they are second class.

It's unfortunate that the school calendar cannot be changed up a little -- longer on other days of the week, shorter on Fridays (convenient for the Jews, too) -- in order to solve this problem.
posted by jeather at 4:27 PM on July 11, 2011


"Ontario has an entire school system dedicated to Catholic Students, and its very existence is enshrined in our Constitution."

And Mike learned something new today. Of course we are running an end-around to beat the whole separation concept with vouchers that use public funds for religious school tuition.
posted by MikeMc at 4:34 PM on July 11, 2011


These are the same schools that still had us kids--Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists, and all the rest--reciting the Lord's Prayer as recently as [time that is not very long ago at all], no?

That was wrong. This is not.

As long as no one's being forced to participate, there's nothing to object to. This is a non-issue. The only reason I can see for it being brought up at all is to stir up anti-Muslim sentiments. Fuck that.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:38 PM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: Let us say I am a 13 year old, gay Muslim girl who is getting antsy with doing the full package of my faith.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:40 PM on July 11, 2011


We're stuck with the Catholic school system because of our Constitution. It wouldn't be considered a reasonable accomodation today, and its exsitence doesn't make this accomodation reasonable or unreasonable. It's not relevant to the discussion, because it's not a policy choice over which the board has any control.
posted by Dasein at 4:43 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


"These are the same schools that still had us kids--Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists, and all the rest--reciting the Lord's Prayer as recently as [time that is not very long ago at all], no?"

I've always been under the impression that Canada was much more secular than the U.S., I must say this thread has been a bit of an eye opener.
posted by MikeMc at 4:44 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hoopo wrote: AFAIK most forms of Judaism and Christianity can be practiced at home and other than church or Temple on weekends don't really require people to pray with any particular frequency or timetable.

Actually, both Orthodox and Conservative Jews are supposed to pray three times daily, and I understand that most Jewish high schools have afternoon and/or morning prayer services. I suspect that the reason this hasn't become an issue with Jewish students is that kids from the more religiously-committed families usually attend Jewish day schools.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:45 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


For example the Ramadan banquets were men only and the female Muslims had to sort themselves out, a fact that was genuinely distressing for a female friend who was a member of this society. If any -other- group had specifically excluded women (or hell, men, since the even the so called women's resource centre would give all services to anyone, even the free tampons) they'd have funding and use of space yanked.

Yikes. That actually is distressing. My question, though, is why the hell did those women decide to give into that shit? The fact that your friend was distressed lets me know that this is NOT an acceptable part of her culture. The only way that women COULD have been excluded is if they ALL decided not to go. If they all decided TO go, it would have been ok.

Yeah, totally uncool with the men-only banquets idea, but I'm also uncool with the way that the women gave in to their PEERS in school.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:46 PM on July 11, 2011


If any -other- group had specifically excluded women (or hell, men, since the even the so called women's resource centre would give all services to anyone, even the free tampons) they'd have funding and use of space yanked.

This is precisely the problem with granting funding to religious groups. You are put in a position of either funding whatever bigotry and backwardness is contained in their religious practices, or of attempting to tell the religious group to conduct itself contrary to its religious beliefs, which is an equally untenable situation.
posted by Dasein at 4:47 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Whoa, people!

Really REALLY quick: The issue about menstruating gals isn't a school-specific issue, it's a religious thing (one that has kind of irked me for a long time), so maybe place "blame" where it's meant to be placed. If another brother or sister wants to let me know why the heck this strange bit is here, please let me know. I've heard rationale such as "prayer is a physical activity, so we don't want to put stress on the girls' bodies," but I don't really buy that.

Personally, if a school made allowances for me to pray during school hours, I would have been DELIGHTED! This is so cool! :) If a student wants to take time off on Friday afternoon (around 1-2pm--lunch time, generally speaking) to pray, and the school has made provision for such, then why shouldn't they be able to? Growing up, I was always kind of disappointed that the Jewish and Christian kids had their vacations placed in the convenient frame known as "winter vacation"... so this is great.

But, one last question that I can't seem to find the answer to: Does this middle school have a significantly large Muslim population? Growing up (in L.A.), I remember getting the week (!!) of Hannukkah off because the school had so many Jewish people.
posted by raihan_ at 4:48 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


We're stuck with the Catholic school system because of our Constitution. It wouldn't be considered a reasonable accomodation today

The Constitution is younger than me, and I'm thirty. Where's the bit about Catholic schools?
posted by Sys Rq at 4:49 PM on July 11, 2011


I would love to see how the Toronto school board would react if any other religious group asked to segregate students by gender

Again, I don't think they're asking the school board to do this, and the school board isn't really giving their approval of the practice. My school in Ontario granted all sorts of special considerations to kids who had different beliefs and whose parents contacted the school about certain elements on the curriculum or otherwise (like swimming lessons, dissections, sex ed, and even inoculations during the meningococcal scare in the 90s). It's not some sort of capitulation that the school is not allowed to force students into doing things that are against their religion. The kids are being taught these things by people other than the school. This would be true whether or not the Friday prayers were on or off school property.
posted by Hoopo at 4:50 PM on July 11, 2011


If the whole separation of men and women thing is supposed to make sure that everyone is thinking about God and not each others bodies, the women should be in a group beside the men, not behind them. Because the women behind have to look at the men - and frankly, men's butts are one of the sexiest parts of them. If I sat behind my SO while he bent over to pray, I wouldn't be thinking about G-d, even if I called on his name.
posted by jb at 4:50 PM on July 11, 2011


We're stuck with the Catholic school system because of our Constitution. It wouldn't be considered a reasonable accomodation today, and its exsitence doesn't make this accomodation reasonable or unreasonable. It's not relevant to the discussion, because it's not a policy choice over which the board has any control.

Whoa, I mean, it's fair to point out that there is a difference between the two cases, but to say it's not relevant to the discussion? That we already fully accommodate another religion? I think it's a pretty salient point.
posted by auto-correct at 4:51 PM on July 11, 2011


Sys Rec - it's still somewhere in there, left over from the BNA act. There's more to the Constitution then just the Charter (the bit I've read).
posted by jb at 4:52 PM on July 11, 2011


Sys Rq, the Constitution is not younger than you, the Charter is. Here's the bit about Catholic schools.
posted by Dasein at 4:53 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Really REALLY quick: The issue about menstruating gals isn't a school-specific issue, it's a religious thing (one that has kind of irked me for a long time), so maybe place "blame" where it's meant to be placed.

But it is a school issue if it's happening in the school, during school hours, and with the endorsement of the school board and administration. That is fundamentally the problem here. Groups do various things in the name of religious beliefs that would not be tolerated in a secular context. If you allow these practices in school, then you're permitting or even encouraging these discriminatory actions, and if you allow only non-discriminatory prayer, you're telling people how to practice their religions, which is also an unpleasant outcome.

If it happens in school, then the "blame" winds up with the school no matter who is actually responsible. It's obviously not the school's fault that the Quran contains those verses or that some people want to pray a certain way, but it really doesn't work to say "it's happening at school, but the school isn't responsible for it."
posted by zachlipton at 4:57 PM on July 11, 2011


In Ontario, we have a publicly funded Catholic school system in addition to the secular public one. This is hardly unreasonable accommodation compared to that.
...
It's also probably useful for Americans reading along to remember that Canada does not have an establishment clause. Ontario has an entire school system dedicated to Catholic Students, and its very existence is enshrined in our Constitution.


Interestingly, there's a guy in Ontario who regularly brings a complaint before one of the International courts (I should probably know which one) due to that issue, and always wins. Unfortunately, Canada [federal government] is the signatory to the various international conventions and thus liable, but Ontario doesn't have to change what it does. It's a very weird situation.1

Sys Rq, it's in section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867. Only the 1982 Constitution is younger than you.

1: A year or two ago, the Premier of NL expropriated a pulp & paper mill from an American company. The company sued Canada and won, but NL didn't have to pay. It was a win-win for the Premier, getting stuff and pissing off the feds.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:57 PM on July 11, 2011


In Ontario, we have a publicly funded Catholic school system
Oh Canada! So uncool :(
posted by Poet_Lariat at 4:58 PM on July 11, 2011


Huh. So why doesn't Nova Scotia have public Catholic schools?
posted by Sys Rq at 4:59 PM on July 11, 2011


Having lived with Muslim girls for a year, I don't think an Iman is needed for prayer. Schools can get around this issue by having a quiet meditation time after lunch that anyone can participate in. Muslim children can be taught how to pray by their Imans another time.
posted by melissam at 5:01 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Growing up (in L.A.), I remember getting the week (!!) of Hannukkah off because the school had so many Jewish people.
I'd be very surprised if that were true. Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday, and it's not one of the ones on which Jews are prohibited from working. Are you thinking of Passover, maybe? I've never heard of a US school district that shuts down for Passover, but I suppose they might schedule Spring Break to correspond with it.
posted by craichead at 5:03 PM on July 11, 2011


Oh Canada! So uncool :(

It was very cool in 1867 - a sign of religious accomodation in a religiously divided country. But, yes, it's not 1867 anymore, and it's time we grew up.

So why doesn't Nova Scotia have public Catholic schools?

Section 93(3) of the Constitution Act, 1867 (formerly the British North America Act) provides:

Where in any Province a System of Separate or Dissentient Schools exists by Law at the Union or is thereafter established by the Legislature of the Province, an Appeal shall lie to the Governor General in Council from any Act or Decision of any Provincial Authority affecting any Right or Privilege of the Protestant or Roman Catholic Minority of the Queen’s Subjects in relation to Education

Charles Tupper, in 1864, created a system of common schools in Nova Scotia, so at Confederation there was no separate system to preserve.
posted by Dasein at 5:06 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This probably shows my ignorance about Islam, but would it be easy to set up a prayer session that would be acceptable to an entire school full of Muslims? I'm trying to think about whether you could do that at a majority-Christian school, and I think you'd probably have some tension between various stripes of Christians about what kind of Christian prayer you'd have. Is there anything like that in Islam? Or are most of the Muslim students at this school coming from similar religious backgrounds?
posted by craichead at 5:07 PM on July 11, 2011


Let us say I am a 13 year old, gay Muslim girl who is getting antsy with doing the full package of my faith.

Hey look, it's Tom McMaster.
posted by BinGregory at 5:07 PM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Huh. So why doesn't Nova Scotia have public Catholic schools?

Nova Scotia doesn't, and I may be editorializing, because public religious schools are a stupid idea and the good people out east are smarter than that?

Huh. Although, according to wikipedia, it's because there wasn't a huge religious divide in the Maritimes back in the day, so multiple school boards just didn't exist. And the Protestant board became the public one.

I lived through the merger of the Newfoundland systems, it was hell. I got a few death threats, beaten up, the usual.

Back on topic, how do they prevent the women from praying based on menstruation? How in the world do they know?
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:08 PM on July 11, 2011


Dammit Dasein stop getting to the point faster than me!
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:09 PM on July 11, 2011


Back on topic, how do they prevent the women from praying based on menstruation? How in the world do they know?
I imagine that women voluntarily refrain from praying when they have their period because that's what they think they're supposed to do.
posted by craichead at 5:12 PM on July 11, 2011


yeah, a lot of us aren't happy with the separate schools - not only is the religious segregation of Catholics a problem, but the existence of the Catholic boards gives fuel to other segregationists who want publically funded Protestant, Jewish and Muslim schools.

But (as mr jb just said as we are discussing this), eliminating Catholic schools is not a vote winner in Ontario. I don't know how many people are as opposed to school segregation as I am - I think many don't care. And there is the large Catholic minority who use the Catholic schools -- and they are taught that the regular public system is Protestant (which is isn't - it's now secular).

It's not all Catholics who use the Catholic system - I don't know what percentage in Ontario do, but there are enough to keep a fairly big board in Toronto going. But no one is required to go to a Catholic school; it's totally optional and I had Catholic friends in my public school.

Though at one point you have to pay to go to Catholic school if you aren't Catholic; my mom, now deeply Protestant, looked into it because she wanted us to go to a religious school and they said she would have to pay $600 per year because we weren't Catholic, or convert and go for free. This was later ruled to be illegal/discriminatory and now anyone can go, but the adult me is happy. Instead, I was enrolled in an excellent public board and had religious freedom (I was Wiccan through most of highschool). Also, I find it funny that my now sola scriptura and sola fide born-again mother almost had me educated into believing in Church tradition and good works. (I'm still a bit more of a Pelagian than an Augustinian, but I've come to that on my own.)
posted by jb at 5:13 PM on July 11, 2011


If the parents of these kids feel so strongly about their religion, why not send them to a Muslim school?
posted by desjardins at 5:18 PM on July 11, 2011


Back on topic, how do they prevent the women from praying based on menstruation? How in the world do they know?

It's just one of those things you learn from being around female family and community members. You can't pray, touch the Quran, fast, etc when you're menstruating - you learn these "rules" when you're young, because that's what the older females did.

Back when I was a practicing Muslim girl/teenager, I of course believed this was total horseshit and would lie - and continue to pray, read Quran, fast, etc. No one could possibly know, and I simply could not understand why god would bestow this natural process upon women, and then segregate or remove them from religious duties through no fault of their own - even though such a god supposedly created the process of menstruation. Most of those prescriptions about Islam and menstruation are based on flimsy Hadith, anyway...
posted by raztaj at 5:19 PM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


One thing I can guarantee you, Mefites wouldn't be dismissing concerns as the products of a "right-wing rag."

I pretty much don't give a shit what the consensus of a scene largely composed of SF-bay US Democrats (a centre-right party, by our standards) as far as any given Canadian social policy. I have noticed that the Canadians sobbing for this attention on the Blue often want to air opinions that won't play at home with dupes who don't know the cultural context in which they exist.

That''s why someone can post a link to a, and all repeat, right wing fucking rag (a project of Conrad Black, no less) and a group who only don't say it would be super to burn mosques to the ground because of hate speech laws Americans like to complain about from a similar complete lack of context.

Do schools exist to teach some default cultural value set? In Canada, the answer is, "not so much." I suppose the fear is that we will spawn fanatical solitudes. Because God knows I needed to get past the strange customs of the Trinidadian enclave before getting married. And other members of my family had to ford the mysteries of the people of Pakistan and South Africa, all because of the curse of multiculturalism.

Alternately, we can look at the facts and say it's bullshit! Because it is. Because other societies are getting fuck all out of the melting pot.

And up here in Canada, we have social and political institutions that are actively engaged in these questions, and ultimately settle them through compromise based on a mix of the particulars, relevant common laws and traditions, and the Charter. Because we have few absolute dictums, and somehow, we still have a democracy. Maybe we should have a constitution that consists of robotic dictums that give us time to shove our thumbs up our assholes and spin until we can decide what a dead guy in a whig thought about firearms, or where to stick a cross, or what-the-fuck-ever.

And that means that whatever is happening here is happening because of a long term consultative process particular to the situation that stakeholders will agonize over. And opposition and modification will come in that context, via human rights challenges, governmental debate and public participation in policy.

And it is not about programming a robotic social process. Because up here, a whole lot of us, despite our differences, believe that openness and respect for particulars matters. Because we were founded on a lot of terrible things, but it includes the basic idea that we are an inclusive culture where religious expression deserves a degree of accommodation. It's part of our Charter, seeded in the BNA. Suck it the fuck up like a Canadian.
posted by mobunited at 5:20 PM on July 11, 2011 [18 favorites]


Dasein> I would also like to abolish the Catholic school system. But until that happens, it's only fair to accommodate other religions to some degree.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 5:20 PM on July 11, 2011


Also, up until the 1960s, Toronto was one of the most sectarian cities in North America. If you weren't in the Catholic system, you were going to a public school where the default mode was usually some form of (English) Protestantism. It was also very difficult to get a job with the city without being a member of an Orange Lodge. I'm not sure the National Post doesn't sometimes wish it was still like that.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:21 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]



Thanks for cluing me in on the menstruation thing, people. I should probably have guessed.

And mobunited, that was spot-on. I fought to get the cross removed from the walls and the virgin mary out of the entryway of my non-denominational public school, going on cbc, attending school board meetings, mediation with the school officials, all that fun stuff. I'm strongly invested in the issue of public school secularism. I'm still not too worried about this.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:29 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I grew up in Ireland, where the Catholic church still controls a huge majority of the schools and shoves its beliefs down students' throats as much as possible. As a result I am strongly in favor of keeping religion out of schools. If you have to give students an hour or two off so they can go to the mosque, do it. But don't bring the mosque or the church to school. And publicly funded religious schools are an evil IMO.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 5:32 PM on July 11, 2011


And don't get me started on the horror I would have felt as a teen if someone had devised a way to show the entire school that I was having my period. As if getting your period wasn't traumatic enough.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 5:34 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Amusingly enough I have muslim friends who always pretend their on their period so they can hang out and chat instead of praying.
posted by captaincrouton at 5:37 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq wrote: As long as no one's being forced to participate, there's nothing to object to.

The article said that 80% to 90% of the students come from Muslim families, and that students leave class to go to prayer services. So presumably most students attend, and it's immediately obvious who goes and who stays. Do you really think that no kids are bullied or otherwise pressured into going? That siblings don't keep tabs on each other for their parents? That the imam doesn't ever have a word with the parents if he notices their child staying behind?
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:41 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, totally uncool with the men-only banquets idea, but I'm also uncool with the way that the women gave in to their PEERS in school.

I don't think the six women, a few whom were married, and most of whom otherwise had families to go home to (as far as I follow), felt like standing down the 20-ish (didn't do an exact head count) men. The problem was the reason for the exclusion was a bunch of the organizers came from countries where this was the norm and in some ways the issue was framed as "those poor lonely boys!" Just my friend, the lone woman who wanted to go, was screwed. No free food for her. She's also a first generation immigrant and rocking the boat would be a bit more of a familial bother than say, if I tried to take a fraternity to task for not letting in women. At least my family wouldn't fight me tooth and nail, as we've been at this equality business for enough generations I'd merely be the family extremist (but a dearly loved all the same).

A publicly funded Catholic school system makes a lot more sense when you were doing it because A) there was already an extensive network of Catholic schools in place when this education for all children people thing started to really catch on, and B) making it clear you liked Protestants and Catholics equally was the tolerant thing to do. And I'm not sure if I mind that systems that were put in place to promote mutual harmony are hard to dismantle.
posted by Phalene at 5:54 PM on July 11, 2011


"There have been concerns expressed that the practice of Religion X separates individuals by race. We do not have the authority to tell faith groups how to pray. The division of the races which occurs during the service is a part of Religion X's faith. Students who participate in the prayer services do so voluntarily and with parental permission, and no one is obligated to participate."
posted by facetious at 6:03 PM on July 11, 2011


facetious, I'm not sure where you're going with that. Race or gender, no one is cool with either practice here. This isn't a referendum on Islam, it's a question about whether a school should allow Muslim students to pray on Friday afternoon at school.
posted by Hoopo at 6:07 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


The article said that 80% to 90% of the students come from Muslim families, and that students leave class to go to prayer services. So presumably most students attend, and it's immediately obvious who goes and who stays. Do you really think that no kids are bullied or otherwise pressured into going? That siblings don't keep tabs on each other for their parents? That the imam doesn't ever have a word with the parents if he notices their child staying behind?

Social pressure is not the same as government-sanctioned force. Nobody's going to get kicked out of school for not attending prayer services.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:08 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


"There have been concerns expressed that the practice of Sport X separates individuals by sex. We do not have the authority to tell sports teams how to play. The division of the sexes which occurs during the game is a part of Sport X's rules. Students who participate in the games do so voluntarily and with parental permission, and no one is obligated to participate."
posted by Sys Rq at 6:09 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


So presumably most students attend, and it's immediately obvious who goes and who stays. Do you really think that no kids are bullied or otherwise pressured into going? That siblings don't keep tabs on each other for their parents? That the imam doesn't ever have a word with the parents if he notices their child staying behind?

Also, this is no different than if the services were being held off school grounds.
posted by auto-correct at 6:12 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


sys rq - good one - i see your point, and i think you see mine
posted by facetious at 6:12 PM on July 11, 2011


B) making it clear you liked Protestants and Catholics equally was the tolerant thing to do.
Well, it was tolerant of Protestants and Catholics, anyway. It was kind of a bummer for everyone else, I imagine.
posted by craichead at 6:16 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


So if you're knocked up, you're more ritually pure than a woman having her menses?
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:21 PM on July 11, 2011


dupes who don't know the cultural context in which they exist.

This whole meandering comment reeks of apologetic crap. The concerns that you so offhandedly dismiss exist precisely because they transcend cultural context. We are defending secular values in public life, period. Children deserve protection from vile religious practices, such as the menstruation-segregation issue. Children deserve better than religious accommodation. They deserve a space where they are unshackled by it all.
posted by stroke_count at 6:42 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


This whole meandering comment reeks of apologetic crap. The concerns that you so offhandedly dismiss exist precisely because they transcend cultural context. We are defending secular values in public life, period. Children deserve protection from vile religious practices, such as the menstruation-segregation issue. Children deserve better than religious accommodation. They deserve a space where they are unshackled by it all.

So religious children shouldn't be accommodated to? How pluralistic is that? That means you certainly ARE taking a stand on religion in school: you're promoting that to be non-religious is to be better than being religious.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:21 PM on July 11, 2011


That means you certainly ARE taking a stand on religion in school: you're promoting that to be non-religious is to be better than being religious.

Is there no limit to the religious practices that can be accommodated in public schools?
posted by etherist at 7:27 PM on July 11, 2011


Does this middle school have a significantly large Muslim population?

Yes. The Popeye's around the corner has a halal certification.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:29 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is there no limit to the religious practices that can be accommodated in public schools?

Of course there is, but just because you can't do all accommodations doesn't mean you can't do some. You have to evaluate the needs of different religious groups and of non-religious groups. But accommodation is the goal, the compromise, even if you can't give everything to everybody.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:44 PM on July 11, 2011


This whole meandering comment reeks of apologetic crap.

The right to religious accommodation is enshrined in our constitution. I'm sorry that you find it difficult to comprehend a right which you do not possess.
posted by mobunited at 7:47 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


A few things, I notice that the fuss did NOT actually start with Christians, but with a Hindu advocacy group. It's Canada, the legal situation is more like the U.K. Than the U.S.
The school in question is a Muslim majority school.
I lived in Los Angeles in 1963-1964. I attended school on East L.A. in a formerly Jewish neighborhood. It was by then a Catholic Mexican-American neighborhood. I remember the Sisters coming to pick up children for what was called 'Religious Release' I so wanted in on that because it took place during Evil Math Class, which made my brain hurt.
That set-up did not exist in San Francisco that I remember.
On the question of formal Muslim prayers and menstruation, it's in the Koran that women are excused from fasting and the five daily prayers. Women and girls also are not supposed to handle or recite the Koran or wear jewelry with religious inscriptions at that time. The same rules apply to the 40 days after giving birth.
Jewish women have some similar restrictions.
If you are being baptized as a Catholic, and you get your period, you have to wait until it is over.
Orthodox Jews, and Eastern Orthodox Christians separate males and females during worship.
In the case of Muslims, when people line up for prayer, women and girls are behind men and boys.
Or the women and girls may be in a curtained off area.
Hindus by the way do not allow menstruating women into places of worship or to cook meals.
I know quite a few people on The Blue have a frame if reference that is uncomfortable with the various taboos about menstruation and post-birth bleeding, but long ago these prohibitions were intended to protect women's health.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:03 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


but long ago these prohibitions were intended to protect women's health.

I don't want this to be a derail, but is that actually true? Or rather, I should ask, is it offered as an explanation in the various texts? This is a genuine question, because I know way more about Roman issues with menstruating women than anything else (don't let them walk with their skirts up through your fields or everything will die! stick a naked menstruating woman on the deck of a boat and she will stop storms!) and those don't seem to even marginally connected with health concerns, just with how it marks women as weird (ie not men).
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:10 PM on July 11, 2011


Well the health aspect in Jewish and Islamic law is made very clear in their respective scriptures and traditions. A Jewish woman explained that Jewish prohibitions on religious activities for women were a mark of Gid's regard for women. Women CAN take that week off because women don'tforget about God. Give men a day off and they would be up to all sorts of shenanigans.

The other prohibition related to
menstruation is sexual intercourse. This has health implications even now. A woman is more likely to get an STD if she has intercourse during her period or during the 40 days
after giving birth. In times and places where clean water and sanitary supplies for women and girls were hard to get this was and remains an issue.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:24 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


How pluralistic is that?

Pluralism, as far as I understand, does not entail the accommodation of religious practices in public spaces. Acceptance, but no accommodation. I suppose we're playing semantics now with the terms.

And of course I am promoting the notion that non-religious schools are inherently better. They allow for freedom of thought that would otherwise be lacking in settings where specific religions are promoted.
posted by stroke_count at 8:27 PM on July 11, 2011


Katjusa Roquette, thanks for the explanation!
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:28 PM on July 11, 2011


And of course I am promoting the notion that non-religious schools are inherently better. They allow for freedom of thought that would otherwise be lacking in settings where specific religions are promoted.

I was talking of non-religious and religious students, not schools. A secular school doesn't mean it's anti-religious, rather that it takes a neutral position when it comes to different religious groups and between religious and non-religious groups. A secular school can be intolerant to the freedom of thought of religious students just as much as religious schools can be intolerant to the freedom of thought of non-religious and different religious students. The goal is to have a secular school that doesn't necessary posit acceptance, but allows for reasonable accommodations for an individual's faith and beliefs.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:31 PM on July 11, 2011


Social pressure is not the same as government-sanctioned force. Nobody's going to get kicked out of school for not attending prayer services.

If you're legally required to attend school, and while you're at school, you're subject to certain social pressures, then that makes those social pressures government-sanctioned.

Additionally, even if you are allowed to not attend school, in order to avoid those social pressures you would have to give up your right to free schooling, meaning that a government benefit is being denied due to unwillingness to be subject to a specific religious practice.

(This logic is lifted, perhaps awkwardly, from the US Supreme Court rulings about prayer in school classrooms, at football games, and the like. I know that Canada is not the US, but I generally agree with the US Supreme Court on this issue.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:03 PM on July 11, 2011


I pretty much don't give a shit what the consensus of a scene largely composed of SF-bay US Democrats.

Maybe we should have a constitution that consists of robotic dictums that give us time to shove our thumbs up our assholes and spin until we can decide what a dead guy in a whig thought about firearms, or where to stick a cross, or what-the-fuck-ever.

I'm sorry that you find it difficult to comprehend a right which you do not possess.

Cut the condescending crap. There are plenty of Canadians on metafilter, and some of them disagree with you. Furthermore, the idea that this debate is somehow beyond the mental grasp of non-Canadians is embarrassing. That democratic process that involves discussion and consensus; that’s what we’re doing right now. What we don’t need is one guy shouting the rest of us down because he thinks he truly knows what the Canadian answer is.

We worked hard on our reputation of not being assholes. Don’t ruin it.
posted by mikedouglas at 9:04 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


We worked hard on our reputation of not being assholes. Don’t ruin it.

LOL no we didn't, people just don't know any better. There is no more or fewer assholes in Canada than anywhere else, we just worry about it more than they do.
posted by Hoopo at 9:54 PM on July 11, 2011


These are the same schools that still had us kids--Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists, and all the rest--reciting the Lord's Prayer as recently as [time that is not very long ago at all], no?

I was saying the lord's prayer (and singing O Canada) when I was in primary school in Ontario, which would have been 1985-1989. Only in grade 5 (1989) did we get kids who would stand outside the classroom during the prayer (or maybe that's when I first noticed it). This was in a regular public school, not Catholic.

In Alberta (1989 onwards) my classmates didn't even believe my stories about having to pray in a public school.

Calgary BTW does have two public school systems. When you pay property taxes you specify which school system you support. I don't know if you don't have to be Catholic to attend a Catholic school, but they do teach the doctrine.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:58 PM on July 11, 2011


A secular school can be intolerant to the freedom of thought of religious students

Taking the stance that school is not the place for the practice of a student's religion is not being intolerant to the freedom of thought of religious students.


Religion has no place in schools. Anyone who thinks this sort of accommodationism can end well, isn't thinking well. No Lord's prayer, no religious assembly, no breaks for private prayer. Nothing. You want to do that stuff, go to the church/mosque/synagogue/stone circle in your own time. You want to pray during school time, do it in your own head and don't selfishly expect different treatment from the school. You are not special, neither is your religion, and you should not expect to be treated as if either were.
posted by Decani at 10:07 PM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Why don't public schools take Friday and Saturday off, but teach students on Sunday then?
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 10:11 PM on July 11, 2011


Why don't public schools take Friday and Saturday off, but teach students on Sunday then?

It would require a much bigger shift in society, surely, given that at the moment getting child care on a Sunday would be near impossible? (I'm not saying it's right, but I can't imagine this working in most Western countries with a massive shift in other working schedules as well.) The best bet might be to work with particular schools in certain areas and the teachers' unions and parents to see if this is a workable option.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:29 PM on July 11, 2011


And looking at that comment of mine, it makes no sense at all, because your children would be in school on a Sunday... Just ignore it, please.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:31 PM on July 11, 2011


Anyone who thinks this sort of accommodationism can end well

What if ends right here?
posted by Hoopo at 11:40 PM on July 11, 2011


Religion has no place in schools. Anyone who thinks this sort of accommodationism can end well, isn't thinking well. No Lord's prayer, no religious assembly, no breaks for private prayer. Nothing. You want to do that stuff, go to the church/mosque/synagogue/stone circle in your own time. You want to pray during school time, do it in your own head and don't selfishly expect different treatment from the school. You are not special, neither is your religion, and you should not expect to be treated as if either were.

Let's say I disagree with some of your premises there, but it does bring to mind two questions that this all hovers about: What are the responsibilities of the religious members of society to the non-religious? And what are the responsibilities of the non-religious in society to the religious?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:42 PM on July 11, 2011


Katjusa Roquette, while I agree with your assessment of the sexual prohibitions during menstruation, there are no Jewish religious prohibitions for women during menstruation. All the commandments that women are obligated to do, they are equally obligated to do during menstruation. There are currently no restrictions against attending prayer services, fasting, kosher laws, touching a torah, etc. During menses women are separated from their husbands, not from the community or the religion.

Back when the Temple was standing, there were prohibitions in place that applied to menstruating women, but that was just one category of prohibition among many - far more men would have fallen under one of the restrictions than women, because there were more ways for men to become (for lack of a better word) "impure."

Not saying that any separation of women for a normal human human body function is not misogynistic at its core (whether it's 'for their own good' or not), but I think that when comparing religious practices to those of other religions, especially in a context where people are using those descriptions to judge current practitioners, it's worth getting the descriptions of those practices right.
posted by Mchelly at 3:48 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you're legally required to attend school, and while you're at school, you're subject to certain social pressures, then that makes those social pressures government-sanctioned.

That can't be correct. Youth face social pressures from a variety of sources about a variety of topics. If I'm at school and get pressured to join the military, that's not a draft, or anything close to it. The football example you're using, if I remember it, involved the entire team having a group huddle and the coach leading the "voluntary" prayer. There's a pretty clear difference.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:43 AM on July 12, 2011


There are plenty of Canadians on metafilter, and some of them disagree with you. Furthermore, the idea that this debate is somehow beyond the mental grasp of non-Canadians is embarrassing.

No, the *fact* that it is beyond the mental grasp of some *Canadians* is embarrassing (and it is an intellectual error, as accommodation is in the Charter), as is the need to appeal to some foreign standard and allow some stereotype of Canadian nonconfrontational geniality to regularly get shoved down our throats.

I believe the reason my (angrily typo-ridden) comment has a lot of faves is because the dynamic I mentioned, where some Canuck neoliberal goes trawling the I-voted-for-Obama-so-I-must-be-left-until-I-complain-about-fatties-and-foreigners petit-technocrat base of this site for sympathy, has probably been oft-recognized but tolerated by Canadians who want to keep being *genial*. There is a limit, and that limit is when somebody portrays one disgustingly partisan newspaper and a religious-supremacist group as major stakeholders in some debate.
posted by mobunited at 6:10 AM on July 12, 2011


That can't be correct. Youth face social pressures from a variety of sources about a variety of topics. If I'm at school and get pressured to join the military, that's not a draft, or anything close to it. The football example you're using, if I remember it, involved the entire team having a group huddle and the coach leading the "voluntary" prayer. There's a pretty clear difference.

The difference is the school sanction. The example I'm thinking of is actually a student-led prayer over a PA at a football game. They used school equipment and it was a school function. That is functionally similar to this situation. The school can't keep kids from pressuring each other, but it can avoid contributing to that pressure by giving them a loudspeaker (literal or figurative).

Of course our constitution is different, so it's of limited legal relevance here.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:27 AM on July 12, 2011


The difference is the school sanction. The example I'm thinking of is actually a student-led prayer over a PA at a football game.

That's not really the same thing though - this is the school offering them a room so that they can pray in it instead of skipping school. A student-led prayer over a PA at a football game is a school sanctioned event.

Calgary BTW does have two public school systems. When you pay property taxes you specify which school system you support. I don't know if you don't have to be Catholic to attend a Catholic school, but they do teach the doctrine.

It actually works the same way in Ontario. My wife is Catholic (from Ireland), and wants our son to attend Catholic school (at least for primary school, so he can learn all his Catholic... stuff? And they do all the teaching for first communion and confirmation and what have you, so we don't have to take him to Sunday school), and we had to mark on the little survey thing (can't remember the people that run it) that she was Catholic in order to earmark that portion of property taxes to the Catholic school board. Also, our local Catholic school also happens to be our local french immersion school, which we also wanted our son to attend, so it's kinda win-win.

And for what it's worth, from what friends have told me, while there is a mandatory religion class that must be taken every year in Catholic high schools, it doesn't really focus too much on Catholicism (in senior year, I believe it was pretty equivalent to the "World Religions" elective that was offered at my public high school).

Also - I'm 33, and I do remember us saying the lord's prayer just after the morning announcements, either right before or right after we sang Oh Canada. It stopped somewhere around grade 5 or 6, which was around... 1988 or so?
posted by antifuse at 6:36 AM on July 12, 2011


The example I'm thinking of is actually a student-led prayer over a PA at a football game

Oh right, that one, my bad. I still think there's a big difference between broadcasting a prayer over a PA and providing an enclosed space for worship. The PA system isn't social pressure, it's that you cannot physically avoid the prayer if you want to attend the game. If this case involved an imam speaking to every student regardless of their expressed desires, it'd be similar.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:37 AM on July 12, 2011


I'm in Ontario. We recited the Lord's Prayer in primary school (early 80s) but I don't recall doing so in middle school or above. According to Wikipedia the crucial legal case ending Christian exercises in Ontario public schools was fought in 1988 (Zylberberg v. Sudbury Board of Education).

While I was in grad school, the University of Toronto was taking every opportunity to create 'interfaith' spaces on campus (which really defaulted to being Muslim prayer spaces). This was egalitarian, in that there are all kinds of Christian spaces on campus dating back to the beginnings of the university. But it always bothered me... I think universities should be 'churches of pure reason' and the existing religious leftovers should have been treated as an embarassing anachronism, not as reason to justify bringing even more religious trappings into the academy.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:34 AM on July 12, 2011


I'm in Ontario. We recited the Lord's Prayer in primary school (early 80s) but I don't recall doing so in middle school or above.

I remember this up to the late 80s as well. It was replaced at some point with a "moment of silence and quiet reflection" which is pretty useless at that age. One of our teachers got frustrated
at our fidgeting during the moment of silence once and told us to remember the sacrifice of those who fought in WWII. I'M FUCKING 10 YEARS OLD, LADY! I still play with GI Joes! What the hell do I know about sacrifice at that age? Missing dessert?

I think universities should be 'churches of pure reason' and the existing religious leftovers should have been treated as an embarassing anachronism, not as reason to justify bringing even more religious trappings into the academy.


Also there should be no sports. Or clubs. Or bars. Or Taco Bells. Only study.
posted by Hoopo at 8:18 AM on July 12, 2011


I live in Dearborn, Michigan, which has one of the largest populations of Muslims outside the emirates. I am not Muslim. My children attend Dearborn public schools, where they are in the minority, both in ethnic background and religious affiliation.

There is no religion practiced in school. NONE. There are Islamic clubs which meet after school, which is totally appropriate. But under no circumstances is it appropriate for children to be allowed to worship in school. Girls are NOT exempt from gym class. The only accommodation made for them (and I even frown on this) is a separate PE class for them. But some non-Muslim girls like that as well, so no big dust ups occurred there.

Regarding the issue of Muslim children missing school to go to mosque: this is called absenteeism and should be treated as such.

Public school is for the public. Not the Muslim public. If Muslim parents want to incorporate religion into their child's school day, there are private schools for that.
posted by Kokopuff at 9:24 AM on July 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm in Ontario. We recited the Lord's Prayer in primary school (early 80s) but I don't recall doing so in middle school or above. According to Wikipedia the crucial legal case ending Christian exercises in Ontario public schools was fought in 1988 (Zylberberg v. Sudbury Board of Education).

I remember the Lord's prayer stopping that year, to be replaced by a moment of silence. I didn't know there had been a court case, what with being 10. But it's kind of neat to realise I remember a bit of history.

That year, my grade five teacher also began to read the bible to us. He was explicit that he didn't intend it to be a religious lesson - and I believe him, as he never mentioned anything else religious ever - but a literature/cultural lesson. Which actually does make sense; the study of most English literature does require knowledge of the bible.

Also there should be no sports. Or clubs. Or bars. Or Taco Bells. Only study.

Actually, I agree with that -- universities should be primarily focussed on teaching and research. Too many students seem to think that university should be a "life experience" - it's not, it's an educational experience. The bulk of your time should be spent working on your education. Which is, of course, why it sucks that so many students have to work for pay just to pay for university - when I'm dictator, university will be free. But anyone with less than a B- average will be asked to leave. Which is actually how many graduate programs are run.
posted by jb at 9:31 AM on July 12, 2011


Also there should be no sports. Or clubs. Or bars. Or Taco Bells. Only study.


To my way of thinking, religious belief is pretty much antithetical to reason -- the same is not true of sports, clubs, bars or taco bell (well, maybe taco bell). But I realize not everyone shares this opinion, and/or they are able to compartmentalize or combine their faith with their studies in a way that I could not.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:08 AM on July 12, 2011


Why are school prayers surprising in a country founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God?
posted by Jairus at 10:56 AM on July 12, 2011


(ssh... nobody mention the Criminal Code prohibition on blasphemy...)
posted by maledictory at 11:12 AM on July 12, 2011


Regarding the issue of Muslim children missing school to go to mosque: this is called absenteeism and should be treated as such.

I'd be a lot more comfortable with this attitude if schools also required attendance at all traditional Christian days/nights of prayer - Sundays, Easter, Christmas.

The fact is that schools in North America run on a Christian schedule. As long as that's the case, it's only fair to accommodate.

We can argue about the extent and nature of that accommodation and that's a really appropriate conversation to have, particularly when it comes to balancing values (such as gender egalitarianism versus religious gender particularism). But arguing against any accommodation at all while sticking to a school year based on a Christian calendar makes no sense at all.
posted by Salamandrous at 11:27 AM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Public school is for the public. Not the Muslim public. If Muslim parents want to incorporate religion into their child's school day, there are private schools for that.

Separate but equal?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:34 AM on July 12, 2011


I'd be a lot more comfortable with this attitude if schools also required attendance at all traditional Christian days/nights of prayer - Sundays, Easter, Christmas.

But it's not the school who is requiring attendance at the mosque.

The fact is that schools in North America run on a Christian schedule.

The fact is that the majority of workplaces in North America also run on a Christian schedule, and changing one without changing the other would severely screw up a lot of people's day care plans.
posted by desjardins at 11:45 AM on July 12, 2011


The fact is that the majority of workplaces in North America also run on a Christian schedule, and changing one without changing the other would severely screw up a lot of people's day care plans.
Right. Most of North America is set up to be convenient to Christians (including those who would be called secular Christians), because the majority of the population is Christian. In order to not overly privilege Christianity, other accomodations need to be made for non-Christians, even though sometimes it seems like then they get extra privileges. They don't, but it's hard to see that from the privileged position.

Probably the exact solution the school board chose here could be improved. But the idea of trying to help students have both an education and follow their religion and culture is not necessarily a bad one.
posted by jeather at 11:54 AM on July 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Congrats to MobUnited for a fierce tone, but the arguments are a tad weak. Sex- and menses-segregated Islamic prayers in a “public” school constitute endorsement of sex- and menses-segregation and of Islam.

At some point, Torontonians will realize Thorncliffe Park has already become a de facto Muslim ghetto. We aren’t France or England, but Muslim ghettoes often deteriorate.
posted by joeclark at 2:18 PM on July 12, 2011


So, anytime you allow people to express their beliefs in public school, you're endorsing them? Is there anything a secular society is allowed to do to allow religious members to practice their religion on their own (legal) terms? If the Catholic school system put in place in Ontario is the result of a compromise between Protestant and Catholic segments of society in the 19th century, what should the religious and non-religious elements of Canadian society do for each other in the 21st? Surely there must be a way that both those segments can be at least somewhat accommodated.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 2:53 PM on July 12, 2011


Muslim ghettoes often deteriorate.

Unlike all those other ghettoes which typically begin and remain totally awesome.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:16 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


We aren’t France or England, but Muslim ghettoes often deteriorate.

Ugh.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:55 PM on July 12, 2011


the *fact* that it is beyond the mental grasp of some *Canadians* is embarrassing (and it is an intellectual error, as accommodation is in the Charter)

It is not an error. The word "accommodation" is not actually in the Charter, and the Charter is not absolute, but explicitly subject to reasonable limits.

Otherwise, I look forward to students wrestling the principal to the ground each year at Festivus-time.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:56 PM on July 12, 2011


At some point, Torontonians will realize Thorncliffe Park has already become a de facto Muslim ghetto. We aren’t France or England, but Muslim ghettoes often deteriorate.

You're conflating ethnic enclaves with hyperghettoization. Don't. It makes you sound like Rob Ford.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:23 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Besides, crying "there goes the neighbourhood" tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.)
posted by Sys Rq at 4:31 PM on July 12, 2011


Accommodation isn't in the Charter, but multiculturalism is:
This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.
Which is pretty close, in my book. So the whole concern about equality rights has to be thought about in light of that.

That being said, the very next section in the Charter is an overriding guarantee of equality for men & women. So it's kind of a wash, I think it falls back to reasonableness.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:27 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you are being baptized as a Catholic, and you get your period, you have to wait until it is over.

Do you have a cite for that? Adult baptisms in the Catholic Church traditionally occur at the Easter Vigil Mass, irrespective of menstrual status.
posted by fermezporte at 8:22 PM on July 12, 2011


Congrats to MobUnited for a fierce tone, but the arguments are a tad weak. Sex- and menses-segregated Islamic prayers in a “public” school constitute endorsement of sex- and menses-segregation and of Islam.

At some point, Torontonians will realize Thorncliffe Park has already become a de facto Muslim ghetto. We aren’t France or England, but Muslim ghettoes often deteriorate.


Thanks for showing your hand in the second 'graf. By the way, I lived in Flemo/Thorncliffe throughout my teens. It was poor in the 80s, poor in the 90s and poor now, regardless of who came to live there. Unfortunately, those people didn't include my uncle Farook, so I can't tell you whether he would have extra-ghetto'd the place.

I do remember folks handing out leaflets about how people like my uncle would create ghettoes back in the 90s. They were from a neo-Nazi organization called the Heritage Front. I sure did enjoy beating the living shit out of a few of those guys, back in the day. They deserved it.
posted by mobunited at 9:25 PM on July 12, 2011


Rob Ford is too benighted to realize what thousands of unassimilated and potentially unassimilable Muslims in one neighbourhood can turn into. It hasn’t yet, and may not. But let’s not pretend there aren’t precedents.

As ever, MeFites pretend Muslims are the ones at risk when what is actually at risk are Western-style freedoms guaranteed in the Charter and elsewhere, including the right to attend a public school that does not turn over part of its physical plant and class time to observances of a religion that, among other things, segregates women thrice over (males lead prayer, males sit at front, menstruating females sit in a ghetto).

Fundamentally, MeFites object to all religion, hence have no trouble equating Christianity and Islam – and hence the attempts in this thread to equate the Catholic school system to a group of Muslims appropriating school time and property in a Muslim ghetto.

Islamic domination of the public sphere in free, constitutionally-governed nations must be resisted even if doing so offends MeFites’ oft-expressed moral-relativist sensibilities. Muslims don’t have a right to take over part of a public school just because you think Muslims are the ones being picked on or for any rationale you may bravely proffer on an Internet discussion site.
posted by joeclark at 10:51 AM on July 15, 2011


Rob Ford is too benighted to realize what thousands of unassimilated and potentially unassimilable Muslims in one neighbourhood can turn into. It hasn’t yet, and may not. But let’s not pretend there aren’t precedents.

Name one.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:05 PM on July 15, 2011


Rob Ford is too benighted to realize what thousands of unassimilated and potentially unassimilable Muslims in one neighbourhood can turn into. It hasn’t yet, and may not. But let’s not pretend there aren’t precedents.

Don't be coy. Explain why Muslims are terrible.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:16 PM on July 15, 2011


Thousands of unassimilated and potentially unassimilable Muslims in one neighbourhood? That's how Detroit spells urban renewal.


You know what's a good movie? Fordson.
posted by BinGregory at 8:57 PM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


« Older After Kad & Olivier sign off and the Satisfaction ...  |  Cats are apparently the culpri... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments