Christmas seems to be taking a back seat in Canadian schools where Jewish and Muslim prayer and worship services are accommodated. Parents are ticked:
Some York Region parents are outraged that Christmas concerts and some Halloween activities are banned from one of their schools while a Friday prayer session for Muslim students continues to flourish.
Muslim students at Mackenzie Glen Public School in Vaughan, Ont., like their counterparts at Valley Park Middle School in North York, Ont., have been worshipping with an imam every Friday from November to March in their schools.
And Jewish students at Rockford Public School in Toronto are provided a portable that acts as a synagogue, where they can worship, some angry parents said.
“They can use the portable as a synagogue any day of the week,” a school official, who didn’t want his name used, said. “They (Jewish students) were even given a key to the school to use the bathroom.”
Officials of the Toronto district school board weren’t available Wednesday to comment on the Jewish prayer service.
The worker said he was scolded for bringing up the issue with supervisors.
“I bitched about it I was told to keep my mouth shut,” the man said. “Why does this group get free perks, and all other religions have to pay for permits and rental space?”
One parent, who has three children attending Mackenzie Glen, said Canadian values and culture are being eroded.
“The Lord’s Prayer and Christmas concerts as we know them are gone,” the York resident said. “The word Jesus seems to be forbidden as the Muslim prayers goes on every Friday.”
The resident said he has a business in the area and didn’t want his name released for fear of repercussions.
Ross Virgo of York region district school board said six of his schools accommodate Muslim prayer services and students range from three to four in some schools to more than 100 in others.
“All our schools would permit students to take time off for prayer,” Virgo said. “Many students leave school for prayer services and some don’t come back.”
He said Christmas concerts are now called holiday concerts and feature seasonal songs of many cultures.
“The tradition and values of many cultures are respected,” Virgo said. “We respect the culture and traditions of other countries.”
The practice of Muslim students praying in the cafeteria at Valley Park has sparked outrage from parents, who claim public school should be secular and not be involved in religion.
Hindu groups have already said they will protest the religious services and want non-Halal meat products for their children.
Farhan Khokhar of Amidyya Muslim Mosque in Vaughan said members of his sect are allowed to pray in schools on Friday as well, but after students of the major Muslim sects finish their prayers.
“Our students pray separately,” Khokhar said. “This is not an issue for us because there are a number of schools across the city where our students can pray.”