Toronto District Muslim Education Assembly
Sound Education Sound Society
Wednesday, June 9th, 1999Toronto District School Board Standing Committee 155 College Street Toronto, Ont. M5T 1P6
My name is Ibrahim El-Sayed, and I am the President of the TDMEA. I am a parent of five children all born Canadian. I am not here to offend or insult any individual or group. However, I shall not compromise the truth, although the truth might hurt.
The TDMEA is a body that came to being after intense consultation and deliberation among many Muslim Parents, the likes of me; Organizations that span the colour spectrum, race, languages and international borders; and Professionals from within the Muslim community residing in Metro Toronto.
Our obligation is to protect our children and community in accordance with the rules of our religion, and not according to individual interpretation.
What I am about to say tonight have already been communicated in verbally and/or in writing to the TDSB, such as:
The Muslim community concluded that the interest and well-being of our children is best served through the involvement of the TDMEA in cooperation with the Board.
However, up to date, the efforts of the TDMEA to represent the Muslim community in Toronto have been undermined by the TDSB and resisted in many overt ways. I wish the time would permit me to give examples.(the least of is lack of response to TDMEA letters).
In the past, more often than not, the Muslim community has either been excluded or misrepresented and that is what the TDMEA shall ensure will not be the case any longer for the benefit of the Muslim students and the community.
Nevertheless, regarding community representation, we are concerned that individuals representing Muslim studentsí interests at the level of the TDSB are not representatives of the mainstream Muslim community. Such individuals maintain views that are not shared by the vast majority of Muslims in the mainstream.
Furthermore, the TDMEA is seriously concerned that unqualified individuals who have not been properly trained in Islamic religious knowledge and jurisprudence are allowed to represent the interest of the Muslim students. Itís only proper that guidance regarding Islamic religious matters must not only represent the vast majority of Muslims, but must also be undertaken by qualified professionals who are recognized and acknowledged by the community they claim to represent. Religious matters should be addressed only by these qualified, not simply any Muslim individuals.
Muslim students are still the victims of many misconceptions about Islam, that both teachers and so-called "representatives" or "experts" are perpetuating. Also, until recently, we still witness the practice of having non-Muslim individuals giving workshops and resources that provide guidance regarding Islam and Muslim students.
That leads me to the second part of my presentation, which is "Equity on Employment and Promotion".
The TDMEAís major concern is the question of Equity of Employment and Promotion of qualified Muslims in the system. At all levels, starting from the top executives, administrative, and policy levels to teaching positions, Muslims are not adequately reflected in the system. This gross under representation of Muslims in the public education system at all levels has to be rectified without further delay. At the present time, the TDMEA is aware of several qualified Muslim professionals who are being denied equal opportunity for Employment and Promotion despite the latest drive to recruit new teachers.
The Muslim community feels very strongly that there is an urgent need for the TDSB to begin seriously working with the TDMEA in order to rectify these inequities in the new amalgamated city of Toronto. Our children need to have role models that understand and represent the needs and aspirations of Muslim students and parents in the education system. Itís a primary role of the TDMEA to facilitate the process of Employment and Equity recommending qualified and experienced individuals from our community that can make a positive contribution to the meaningful development of our society if given the chance. Together we can work to eliminate imbalances and inequities in our society.
The TDSB has a large minority of Muslim students and families and needs to include a Muslim perspective in its curriculum, policies, practices, and procedures at all levels to forestall future problems. It is a widely known statistic that 1 out of every 5 newly born babies in Toronto is a Muslim. Thus, Muslim student in the system exceeds 20% of all student population.
We request you to direct Board administrative staff to dutifully include all sectors of the Muslim community in their plans. The TDMEA has been established to support these efforts and should be seen as an ally, not as a foe.