Protest against Muslim prayer services in schools
By Tom Godfrey ,Toronto Sun
Some Muslim parents fear a handful of Toronto imams are turning their children into young radicals during Friday prayer services at some public schools.
“Who are these imams and what are their qualifications,” asked Sohail Raza, president of the Muslim Canadian Congress. “I am extremely concerned about what they are teaching our kids.”
Raza was among 300 people who demonstrated outside the Toronto District School Board, on Yonge St., on Monday night.
Vocal protestors from six groups have formed a multi-faith coalition and vow to ramp up their protest against Islamic prayers taking place in some public schools as students return to classes this fall.
The group chanted and waved signs calling for prayers to be banished from classrooms.
“I pray five times a day and I still don’t know anything about the imams teaching our children,” Raza said. “This is like handing over your kids to strangers.”
Meyer Weinstein, of the Jewish Defence League, called for a halt to the prayer services.
“We don’t want radical Islam gaining a foothold in our schools,” Weinstein said.
The coalition was formed about two months ago after articles appeared in the Toronto Sun about how Valley Park Middle School, on Overlea Blvd., had opened up its cafeteria for Muslim prayers.
An a Muslim religious leader was allowed to lead a weekly 40-minute prayer service for up to 400 Islamic students in which the girls sat apart from the boys.
The Friday service sparked an uproar from some city residents who want public schools to remain secular.
The service was allowed at the school after parents in the Muslim community expressed concerns about safety issues arising from their children travelling to the mosque to pray and some not returning to school.
“We will continue picketing until this practice stops,” said Ron Banerjee, of the Canadian Hindu Advocacy. “We have been getting the support of many Canadians who are fed up.”
Protestors plan to picket several schools when the prayer sessions resume in November. It runs until March. At least three Toronto public schools offer the prayer services, coalition members said.