News Agencies – September 2, 2012
Connecting with the broader community through arts, humor and entertainment, Canada’s annual Muslim festival has closed on a high note this weekend. “This festival is a great opportunity for Ontarians of all backgrounds to experience Muslim culture in all its diversity and vibrancy,” Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said in a support message.
Muslimfest, now in its 9th year, featured over 50 local and international artists, concerts, comedy shows, film screenings, and art exhibits. Over 25,000 participants attended the two-day event which drew praise from politicians across the region including McGuinty and the City of Mississauga’s Mayor, Hazel McCallion. Some highlights of the festival included performances by local Canadian favorite, Dawud Wharnsby, and vocal artist, Junaid Jamshed, from Pakistan.
Toronto Star – August 30, 2011
The debate over Muslim prayers at a Toronto school wove its way into Eid al-Fitr celebrations on at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Speaking to a crowd of more than 10,000 gathered, Jamal Badawi, a prominent author on Islam, called attempts to stop the Friday prayers at Valley Park Middle School a form of “secular fundamentalism.” Critics, including several religious groups, have condemned the school for allowing an imam to conduct prayer services for Muslim students in the cafeteria.
The festival, which includes carnival rides and a bazaar, has been organized by the Muslim Association of Canada for 26 years. Premier Dalton McGuinty made a brief appearance, thanking the attendees for their contributions to the province’s economy and culture. Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath also addressed the crowd.
News Agencies – July 19, 2011
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says schools, with input from their communities, are best equipped to answer the controversial question of how to accommodate students’ religious beliefs and practices. The premier’s comments come as a handful of faith-based groups say they will picket Toronto District School Board headquarters next week. The groups, which include the Jewish Defence League of Canada, the Canadian Hindu Advocacy and the Christian Heritage Group, are upset that a middle school in the city’s north end has provided Muslim students cafeteria space for a weekly prayer service, saying the board showed favouritism to Islam.
Mr. McGuinty told reporters that “when it comes to faith matters I have faith in school boards, I have faith in schools themselves to make judgments that they think are appropriate in their particular circumstances.” The Toronto school board has defended Valley Park’s decision, noting that schools have a duty to accommodate students’ religious beliefs under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Shock and anger is spreading among Hamilton’s 20,000 Muslims after the city’s largest mosque was firebombed. The mosque includes the Islamic School of Hamilton which has about 200 students from kindergarten to Grade 8. Attackers had used a large rock to smash a hole in a front window at the mosque and then lobbed in what police are calling an “incendiary device.”
The Molotov cocktail did only minimal damage to the Stone Church Road East mosque, approximately $3,000 CAD. The Hamilton police hate crime unit and chief arson investigator Sgt. Tim Bower are leading the investigation. Premier Dalton McGuinty, Hamilton Mountain MP Chris Charlton and the Ottawa-based Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations were among those who condemned the attack. “Ontario’s diversity is our great strength,” McGuinty said. “So when a mosque or other place of worship is desecrated, it is an attack on all Ontarians.”
The same mosque was damaged in 2001 when vandals destroyed its front lobby by smashing windows with beer bottles in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.