Lunchtime in the Mosqueteria
Lunchtime in the MosqueteriaA blogger's tale of Islamic prayer taking place inside a Toronto middle school ignites an online battle in Canada
Valley Park Middle School in Toronto offers more than just lunch in their school cafeteria – they also offer a place for Muslim students to pray. One anonymous Canadian blogger caught wind of this and wrote a post that set off a furor in the Canadian blogosphere, debating whether Canadian schools should be accommodating this religious practice
Valley Park Middle School is one of a half dozen schools in its district that accommodates Islamic prayer services, according to a school board representative. While it's a secular school system, the school board offers one very practical reason for offering prayer services: "All our schools would permit students to take time off to prayer… Many students leave school for prayer services and some don’t come back.” To make things more convenient for students and help fight truancy, the school began to offer a prayer service inside its cafeteria.
An anonymous blogger at a blog called Blazing Cat Fur first noted it online, observing: "School administration take part preparing the Cafeteria and making it into mosque every Friday and no one but Muslims can use the Cafeteria during the Islamic prayers on Friday." The post was mentioned on a site called Jihad Watch, where it sparked a flurry of comments. One commenter wrote: "I'm just glad there are still people keeping watch and making this stuff public….Islam is quite a creeping darkness all over the globe right now."
The school board responded in a statement that they were not, in fact, violating any school board guidelines: "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."
Critics also argue that this is a case of gender discrimination, responding to photos of the prayer services that show girls standing behind boys and young women who are menstruating being placed in the very back of the cafeteria. In an opinion piece for Toronto's National Post entitled "Spreading Islamist misogyny –with your tax dollars" author Tasha Kheiriddin writes, "One is tempted to say: Is this the Middle Ages? Have I stumbled into a time warp, where "unclean" women must be prevented from "defiling" other persons?"
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