Toronto District Muslim Education Assembly

Sound Education Sound Society





Re: Human Rights Draft Policy

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Ladies and gentlemen, I am here tonight to speak again on behalf of the Muslim community to express our concerns regarding the attitude and direction of the Toronto District School Board, in particular, the anti-homophobia, sexual orientation and anti-sexism, gender equity policies. These policies have serious implications as they impact on our public school system and society at large. The Muslim Community in the GTA is outraged by the crass political agenda by the TDSB under the banner of Equity.

We should be reminded that the TDSB's Equity Foundation Statement includes "faith" among other equity issues such as gender, and sexual orientation as an integral part of its mandate. The TDMEA made several deliberations to have a faith accommodation document implemented but was denied the right to seek implementation of a faith document similar to other equity documents brought before the Board. The faith accommodation document was systematically frustrated set aside.

The Basic Document: Muslim Beliefs and Practices which addresses, among other important issues, how to deal with Human Sexuality from an Islamic point of view was submitted to the Board by TDMEA. The Board deliberately ignored this document and excluded it on purpose from a resource booklet called "Equity Education" which was produced by the Equity Department last November. The booklet contained numerous resources and references regarding anti-sexism, anti-homophobia and anti-Semitism but was conspicuously silent on faith issues, especially Muslim concerns.

In Islam, as with other religions, core issues are beyond questions of human judgement, political correctness, arbitrary notions of equity, or the agitation of powerful interest groups. As with other religious communities, for Muslims, issues of "sexual orientation", the buzz word for promoting homosexual lifestyles, do not constitute education proper for our children to be instructed in by those who do not share sound religious values and beliefs.

For Muslims, the issue is not "Homophobia" or "Anti-gay hostility". These are conveniently used terms to mask the real political agenda of the TDSB. We have the right to defend our principles, standards and values based on our faith. Muslims do not seek to impose their values on others, but we have a duty to save our children from moral corruption and society from degradation and social maladies. In Islam, homosexual behaviour is wrong. It is unacceptable and unethical to impose this fetish and deviant practice on others. It is a scandal that the public

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schools should become an instrument for achieving ulterior political agendas. Their function is to provide a safe environment and sound education to our children for the good of society.

It has become apparent that some non-academic subjects are deliberately introduced in our public education system in order to accommodate peculiar social changes in society. With specific respect to sexual orientation, different groups have varying and even opposing standards and viewpoints. We strongly believe that Muslims are not the only group in society that is deeply offended by the current attitude of the Board on this issue.

A recent example in The Toronto Sun on 2nd December indicated that the Trustees backed a poster campaign by approving and helping sponsor the poster that will be put up in schools. Yet, the TDSB claims that there is no money and human resources for faith accommodation and that the Board will deal with our issues on an individual basis. More than homosexuals, Muslims constitute a significant segment of the student population in the GTA. We therefore have great difficulty in understanding why Muslims should be accommodated on an individual basis. Current trends and realities consistently indicate that there is an urgent need for a clear and comprehensive faith policy in the TDSB.

At the present time, my son is a victim of the system as he is forced out of school since 1st November due to the lack of faith accommodation in his school. This situation persists precisely because the Board failed to inform the principals across the City to ensure that alternatives are readily available when the schools promote and facilitate programs and activities against one's religious beliefs.

The TDMEA has raised these concerns over and over again at the Equity Advisory Committee to no avail. When I made a presentation last June to the same Standing Committee, it was recommended that the Director approach the TDMEA in December 1999 in order to address the Muslim Community's concerns. To date, the TDSB has neither acknowledged nor addressed the Muslim concerns. The current posture of the TDSB has heightened the seriousness of the situation and adds new dangers and concerns for the Muslim Community.

As it stands, the TDSB violates it own foundation statement, the content of the anti-racism and ethno-cultural implementation document that is in front of the Board, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights, and the Ontario Human Rights, by is blatant disregard of faith issues, children's rights and parents' rights in the public education system.

At is stands, midstream, the Committee changed its operating principle from consensus to a simple majority ruling and stifles debate in order to side step faith issues.

As it stands, the Equity Advisory Committee is grossly non-democratic, does not reflect the diverse communities in Toronto and does not recognise or acknowledge the input of existing Committee members, namely faith groups. Children and parents are simply ignored. If the Board was listening, perhaps it would not have found itself in this difficult situation it is now in.

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At it stands, the composition of the high administrators of the Board is itself a blatant manifestation of inequity.

As it stands, the Board rushed the Committee to put together a foundation statement in a hasty and underhanded manner without even giving members enough time to properly study the implications it has for their respective communities/constituencies.

As it stands, the Boards utilises intimidation tactics to silence debates and prevent members from voicing their views freely. Many people are afraid to take a stand because of they are employees of the system.

As it stands, if the TDSB wants to assume the parental role of our children in deciding what they should be taught as correct moral and ethical values, it is first ethically and morally responsible to inform, consult and seek the approval of the public regarding the kind of education it intends to promote. This petition (over 5000 signatures) asserts the parents' concerns on the sexual orientation document and other issues.

Be it resolved therefore that it is our right as parents and faith communities to object to the promotion of any material, programs and activities that contradict our faith. We further request that our children be provided with acceptable educational alternatives. Under the Equity Principle, and request the TDSB to provide education regarding Muslim culture and values including anti-Islamism on the same footing with anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, and anti Semitism and ensure equal protection for all including Muslim children within the public school system.

It is our hope that the Board would be encouraged to fulfil the important role it is expected and mandated to do as a public trust. The Muslim Community urges TDSB not to adopt these documents and we recommend TDSB implement the Human Rights & Anti-Harassment Policy which is sufficient enough to protect everyone's rights. We at the TDMEA continue to avail ourselves to the TDSB in order to work collectively and as partners in building and promoting not only a more responsive public education system but one that is safe and sound for the good of all, not just Muslims.

Thank you.

Ibrahim El-Sayed