Friday, April 28, 2017

Nazi Proxies in Canada? A community divided

Outside the offices of the Peel District School Board in Mississauga,
secular-school advocates, many from South Asian backgrounds, protest
religious accommodation in Peel schools last Tuesday.
Two large paintings of the Hindu god Krishna are mounted on the wall of Ram Subrahmanian’s living room, but he doesn’t want to be labelled as a Hindu.

What’s his religion? “Canadian!” he says, his eyes lit up behind his glasses, punctuating his pride with a fist pump. It’s Tuesday evening, and many of the dozens of South Asians he’s standing with outside of the Peel District School Board offices in Mississauga also worship at the altar of the maple leaf and love singing that ancient hymn, O Canada.

Someone begins a call-and-response chant through a megaphone: “No religious practice!” A group of protesters reply: “In public schools!”

Mr. Subrahmanian is touting a sign that says “There is no such thing as ‘religious accommodation’ in the Ontario Human Rights Code.” For months, Mr. Subrahmanian and his cohorts have protested the school board’s policy on religious accommodation. Muslim Friday prayer, called Jummah, has had a place in Peel schools for decades, but the issue became a point of contention in the wider community late last year when the board revisited how the service was conducted and tried to provide more consistent guidelines to schools.

Last month, a meeting to discuss the matter devolved into chaos when protesters shouted anti-Muslim remarks and tore up a copy of the Koran. Later, an inflammatory video posted to YouTube offered a cash reward for a recording of Muslim students using hate speech in Friday prayers.

To the school board, the debate is over. They’ve moved on to other topics at their meetings. But protesters say they’ll be back to picket the next board meeting and the one after that.

Some have threatened to take the school board to court. And notably, at this protest, as with others before it, the majority of the crowd is South Asian – members of a community that makes up half of Peel’s population.  (more...)

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