On January 10, 2017, I attended the Peel District School Board’s meeting where recommendations for allowing Muslim students to write their own sermons (khutbah) for congregational Friday (Jumma) prayers in public schools were received. For more than 15 years, students were allowed to pray in the school but not in a congregational setting. In June 2016, the Jumma prayer was officially adopted but the students were only allowed to read from a list of pre-approved sermons.
Mississauga is one of three cities in the Peel region and the sixth largest city in Canada with high ethnic diversity and a population nearing one million. One of Mississauga’s calls to fame is that it is home to at least eight members of the “Toronto 18” — the first terrorist cell uncovered in 2006 and that aimed to create an Al-Qaida type of operation in Canada. Some of the 18 attended public schools: Saad Khalid, for example, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for pleading guilty to a single count of acting “with the intention of causing an explosion or explosions that were likely to cause serious bodily harm or death or damage property”. He was known to have attended the Meadowvale Secondary School. There, he had started an Islamic Club and, in the lecture hall, had led Friday prayers, which he attended with fellow arrestees Fahim Ahmad and Zakaria Amara. If people like Khalid are the champions of organizing Jumaa prayers and Khutbah in their schools, it is no wonder that pre-scripted sermons were the way to protect public safety while allowing Muslim students still to practice their faith.
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