Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Multi-Cultural, Multi-Religious

There are subjects which catch my attention, don't fit the schedule of my blog, then leave me wondering if I should return to them when they are no longer in the public eye. An example is the kerfuffle a few weeks ago about prayer for Muslim students in Toronto board schools. The request was/is to let Muslim students observe the daily prayer schedule during the school day. Some critics saw this as a dangerous precedent in a public school system which is non-sectarian. Some Christians objected because prayers such as the Lord's Prayer can no longer be repeated collectively and even Christian groups who want to meet in school space feel marginalized. There were demonstrations outside some schools and board offices and at times it got ugly.

It is a touchy subject --isn't that often the case with religion?-- and not easily resolved. I feel Christian groups as well as other religious groups should have the right to meet and pray at lunch hours and after school. And the argument that we withhold something from someone else because we can't have it doesn't seem all that charitable.

This is also about truly listening to those from different religious traditions. Prayer is one of the pillars of Islam and many workplaces now allow Muslim employees to take a few moments for prayer at the specified times. The reason the mosque in Courtice is situated there is because OPG employees wanted a site where they could slip away on their lunch hour and breaks for faithful observance. I have commented to people that I wish Christians were that dedicated to prayer!

Still, this shows the challenges of our multi-cultural and multi-religious society. Some schools in the TDSB are 80% Muslim.

What are your thoughts on this one?


IanD said...

Charitable? No.
Equitable? Yes.

dmy said...

At my place of employment we have a quiet room for prayer and meditation and it is open to anyone who wishes to use it and it is utilized daily. Our daughter teaches at a school in London that is 80% Muslim and they have a room for the same purpose. The prayers are not repeated collectively and openly as the Lord's Prayer used to be. I have mixed feelings but like you said David we should not withhold this because we lost something. I do lean more towards the room being a privilege provided with the understanding of customs and to be used at lunch and breaks. I have not seen any abuse of this privilege at my workplace.

lionlamb said...

I would like to think that equity doesn't require total absence. We have agreed as a society that teaching religion in the classroom is at odds with a mult-cultural public school system.

Creating alternatives that honour everyone's religious sensibilities can't be that difficulty, once we turn down the temperature of competition. It's good to hear of creative solutions.