News Agencies – September 14, 2012
A group in Toronto says it wants to screen a controversial film that depicts the prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and a madman. Canadian Hindu Advocacy spokesman Ron Banerjee says he doesn’t yet have a location for a screening. Excerpts from the movie enraged Islamic protesters in Egypt, Libya and Yemen over its portrayal of Muhammad. Banerjee says they’ll also show snippets from other movies that are offensive to Christians and Hindus. He calls it a way of fighting intolerance.
The Toronto Star – August 8, 2011
About a hundred demonstrators congregated on the steps of the Toronto District School Board toting signs and shouting chants condemning the city’s public schools for allowing Muslim prayer groups. “No Islam in our schools! Never, never, never!” shouted Ron Banerjee, director of the Canadian Hindu Advocacy. The demonstration comes several weeks after a similar one was held at the same location with groups such as the Jewish Defense League and the Christian Heritage Party.
On the edge of the street were about a dozen young Muslims clad in colourful hijabs, carrying signs supporting the school board. The controversy over Muslim prayers in public schools was recently ignited over Valley Park Middle School’s decision to bring in an imam to provide Friday prayer service to 300 Muslim students, who were reportedly failing to return to school after leaving early to attend a mosque.
The Toronto Star – July 25, 2011
About 100 protesters, many from groups such as the Jewish Defense League, the Christian Heritage Party and Canadian Hindu Advocacy, came to the Toronto District School Board to protest its approval of formal Friday prayer services for Muslim students at Valley Park Middle School.
Previously those students had left their school to attend prayers at a nearby mosque on Fridays. Bringing an imam into the school was a means of preventing some of the approximately 300 Muslim students from failing to return to classes after those prayers, said school board director Chris Spence. It also meant they don’t have to cross a busy street. Valley Park has been holding the prayers in the cafeteria for three years and there have been no complaints within the school community of about 1,200.
Speaking to reporters inside the board office, Spence said schools have an obligation to religious accommodation. But, “accommodation is fluid. It’s not written in stone,” said Spence, who added the board is feeling its way on the difficult issue.
The Globe and Mail – July 8, 2011
More than two-thirds of the population that surrounds Valley Park, in Toronto’s northeast, have arrived in the past 20 years, primarily from India, Pakistan and more recently Afghanistan – reflecting Canada’s shifting urban demographics. The school draws many of its students from Thorncliffe Park, a one-kilometre horseshoe of apartment buildings packed with 30,000 people – a neighbourhood that is known for having the highest concentration of Muslims in Canada. Now it’s becoming known for something else: It’s at the centre of a growing debate over the place of religion in the public school system.
This week, a complaint about imam-led prayer sessions at the school has made unlikely allies of diverse religious interest groups and secularists, from the Canadian Hindu Advocacy to the Muslim Canadian Congress to the Canadian Secular Alliance.
From November to March, the pupils enter the cafeteria segregated by sex, with boys at the front separated from girls at the back. The imam stands at the front with a microphone and begins with a short lesson in English, usually about the importance of discipline or mutual respect, said a parent volunteer, and then leads a prayer in Arabic. Until a week ago, Valley Park’s three-year policy of accommodating Muslim pupils who wanted to pray during school hours had caused barely a ripple. Then the Canadian Hindu Advocacy complained that it violated a policy banning religious instruction in public schools, which raised a chorus of opposition as well as support.