Toronto District School Board headquarters on Yonge St. (Sun files)
The Toronto District School Board is temporarily pulling an Islamic Heritage Month guidebook following complaints from Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith Canada, the Sun has learned.
The book, as I described in a recent column, is a robust 170-page document that encourages a great deal of religious intrusion in a classroom setting that’s otherwise supposed to be a non-religious environment.
The recommendations include reciting and explaining the Muslim greeting “As-salamu alaykum” (peace be upon you) alongside the singing of O Canada and inviting children to visit a local mosque. It also includes templates of famous mosques around the world for children to construct during cut-and-paste exercises.
But it’s the guide’s alarming definition of Islamophobia that’s caught the attention of the leading Jewish advocacy group. The school board’s guide defines the term as “fear, prejudice, hatred of dislike directed against Islam or Muslims, or towards Islamic politics or culture.”
“The TDSB definition, if enforced, could lead to punishment for students or teachers who display ‘dislike’ towards the persecution of LGBTQ people in the Islamic Republic of Iran, harsh restrictions on women in Saudi Arabia, and Palestinian terrorism against Israelis, all of which are examples of “Islamic politics”, an earlier press release from B’nai Brith Canada says.
The organization contacted the TDSB Monday morning and by the afternoon, the school board had committed to pulling all copies of the guidebook until they revised the definition of Islamophobia, according to B’nai Brith Canada. It’s unclear if they plan to revise or remove any of the other controversial aspects of the guide.
“There are many students in Toronto schools who have come to Canada fleeing persecution from countries like Iran, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia — and now the TDSB is telling them to stay silent about what they’ve suffered. It’s simply ludicrous,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said in the earlier press release. They’ve since issued another release thanking the board for swift action on the issue.
The House of Commons heritage committee is currently engaged in a study of Islamophobia and other forms of prejudice following the passing of the controversial M-103. The committee has yet to offer an agreed upon definition of the ill-defined term.
However, a former RCMP and CSIS officer did deliver testimony recommending that Canadians whose comments on Islam “go too far” should face some form of prosecution.
The Sun has received e-mails of concern from parents and teachers in the wake of my original report on this alarming guidebook. Neither the school board nor trustee chair has yet to respond to requests for comment.