Muslim groups promise to monitor Quebec ban on school prayer spaces

Canada Global (Web News) Muslim organisations are protesting the Quebec government’s plan to outlaw prayer rooms in public schools and pledging to keep an eye on how the Education Department applies its new regulations.

Education Minister Bernard Drainville pledged last week to forbid schools from doing so in response to news that at least two schools in the Montreal region had designated areas for Muslim students to pray. But the minister assured reporters that he wouldn’t outright forbid prayer. Instead, he advised pupils to pray “discreetly” and “quietly.”

The National Council of Canadian Muslims announced on Monday that it would monitor how the government implemented the ban on prayer rooms and that it would “take action” if the rights of students were infringed.

According to the council’s chief executive officer, Stephen Brown, “we haven’t actually seen how it is going to materially impact individuals.” Hence, “we would do something, we would take action, (if) these guidelines would actually constitute in effect a limitation on people’s fundamental rights.”

When asked if Drainville’s order had been followed, the Education Department remained silent on Monday.

Throughout the course of the previous week’s 24 hours, Drainville’s stance hardened. He stated that schools could not favour one religion over another and that they had to make sure the spaces supported gender equality in his first response to news of school prayer areas. But as the Parti Québécois demanded tougher action, he immediately altered his mind, claiming Drainville’s initial accommodative posture would encourage additional schools to open up prayer rooms.

When the PQ was in power in 2013, Drainville is renowned for introducing a purported values charter. Those who wear religious symbols should not be allowed to work in public institutions, according to the charter. The charter served as a model for Bill 21, a secularism bill introduced by the Coalition Avenir Québec in 2019 that forbids many public employees, including teachers, from donning religious garb at work. Before the elections in 2022, the minister switched to the CAQ.

According to civil rights attorney Julius Grey, Quebec schools are not required to provide prayer rooms under Bill 21. Yet if the government outright forbids students from praying, it might find itself in legal difficulties.

“A bar on people praying in schools would be utterly opposed to the Charter — and I think will get struck down,” Grey said in an interview on Monday. They won’t, in my opinion; to do so would be to invite difficulty.

The minister should have consulted community leaders before banning school prayer areas, according to the Table de concertation des organismes musulmans, a coalition of Muslim groups and mosques that condemned Drainville’s decision last week.

Hassan Guillet, a Montreal imam, called the issue a “tempest in a teacup,” claiming that politicians and media outlets had implied that Muslim pupils praying in class was somehow sinister. According to him, Ramadan sees an increase in the number of Muslims who pray five times daily.

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button