Thanking the Catholic School Principal and clearing up some misconceptions….

As I was dropping off my daughters at their CATHOLIC High School, I was listening to Christina Blizzard on the radio. With the recent columns and debate in the papers about Catholic schools opening up Muslim prayer rooms I was very tempted to respond back.

My daughters are the only Muslims at their school. I am in the school council and have been for 4 years now. The principal and the staff have always been welcoming and accommodating. They offered my daughters a prayer room also but I said that it was ok. They come home and pray. Just the same when I read about Mother Teresa HS and the prayer room…. I wrote a Thank you note to the principal ….THANKING HER on behalf of the London Muslim Community. Just as I feel I am sure majority of my friends feel the same also. I think it is at the Principal’s and her staff’s discretion.

The reason for me to enroll my daughters in a Catholic HS was not that I want my kids to learn culture and ethics. Thank God we do most of that at home… respect elders, teachers, parents and so much more. I myself have been educated in a Catholic School … I used to do the prayers just like my daughters do at their HS. They attend mass and just like so many kids at their school they just cross their forearms when receiving the blessings. My one daughter, who has already graduated not only was an honor student who excelled academically but also religiously. She took part in several religious retreats. MUSLIMS ATTENDING CATHOLIC SCHOOLS HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH CRUSIFIXES IN THE CLASS ROOMS. In fact, my daughter was presented a cross and a Bible by the Rev. Fabbro and honored at St. Peter’s Seminary with a Beatitude Award which I still have at home. Majority of the Muslims have no problems in wishing “MERRY CHRISTMAS” and giving gifts at Christmas to their Christian friends/ neighbours and co-workers. Further, a Muslim must be good to his neighbors, no matter what their religion is. But the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us that a “neighbor” is not just the one next door but also includes all those up to forty houses in all directions – effectively a whole neighborhood. Christianity teaches all the same values as Islam. Because all three of the main religions in this world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam have the same common roots. They all believe in the same GOD. That is the reason why so many of the Muslim families choose to enroll our kids at a Catholic school. I love the fact that no matter what is taught, it is always tied back to God and reinforces Faith. We (Muslims whose kids attend Catholic Schools) have no problem with learning about Christianity in their Religion class unlike Oliver Erazo and Kyle Naylor (Battles over Catholic school courses frustrate families: The Toronto Star- Sept. 15, 2012) who enrolled their kids in Catholic Schools and now want their kids to be exempted from the religion course????? Not a front page news again and not even mentioned by Christina (from the Toronto Star) in her column or on the radio.

I just want to clear some more of the misconceptions that you and the host were discussing. You have mentioned in your column that most of all you hate how young girls are segregated and are forcefully placed in the back … behind the males and that the menstruating girls are not allowed to pray at all. Muslims (men and women) pray 5 times a day. They fast once a year during the month of Ramadan. Islam is a religion of easiness and it removes hardships for all Muslims. That is why Muslim females are exempted from praying for the days while she is menstruating and during pregnancy who may be weak or in pain or just fatigued (for health concerns). Muslims who are old, weak or sick are also exempted. Fasting has to be made up for but not the prayers at a later date/time. So it is for their own good Islam gives women a break every month because of the tremendous hardships they endure due to the changes in their hormones and not because they are unclean or inferior to men. ALLAH in Arabic and GOD in English, exempted them from fasting and prayer in order not to add to their hardships.

As for the women being segregated from the men, please read the following links. Wikipedia -Sex segregation. They all support that many of the other religions such as Judaism and even some Christians still have separate seating either side by side or behind for women. Even if it is side by side…there is a division between them. Just like Judaism … Islam again has the same reasoning. The segregation is to safeguard the women from the prying eyes of the men and in turn both can concentrate on praying to God, the real reason they are there for. Again refer and read Wikipedia -Gender separation in Judaism under “Reasons”. Anat Hoffman “’Women of the Wall- movement fights Israeli gender bias” is still fighting against the segregation in Judaism. This news is not very highlighted BUT when it comes to Islam why is it always in the negative. Please highlight the POSITIVES about Islam also. However all this negativity makes people research about Islam and that is why it is the fastest spreading religion in the world.

How is it that when women in other religions such as Judaism, Christianity (Nuns) or the Mennonite/Amish community follow a way of dressing – it is called modesty and when Muslim women choose to dress it is called oppression? Why are other religion-traditions and practices (sometimes very different and bizarre: goggle – 10 Weird Religious Practices respected and seen with dignity whereas when it is about Islam it is medieval, old and backwards)

It is ok for a Mennonite child to be exempted from standing in school during the national anthem or the Canadian flag been taken down recently but this would have been a huge front page news if God forbid, it was a Muslim, with Islam being blamed. Just like Dowry death, Honor killing, Female genital mutilation has to do with different cultures and not Islam.

If anyone is really interested in learning and understanding about Islam from moderate Muslims then read the following articles and really try to understand the real meaning of the Quran.

1- Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf: Let the Global Movement of Moderates Rise
2- West should do more to fight Islamophobia: Turkish minister
3- Br. Nauman Ali Khan
4- Moderates in West must raise their voices: Haroon Siddiqui–column-moderates-in-west-must-raise-their-voices-haroon-siddiqui

There are many more such people in the papers, internet and all around you in daily life (the everyday common Muslim Canadians) who are peace loving and responsible contributors not only to the Canadian society but the world…but only if we look for them.

Muslim women (with the head covering or not, which they cover by choice and are NOT forced to do so) are an intellectual part of the society. “ I also found them very confident, content and in some ways more liberated on a spiritual and intellectual level than you or I. They do everything we do here and more – they work outside their homes, they are educators, politicians, leaders`….“ Raheel Raza (Women in Islam). Other books which can be read on the Status of women are: Gender equality in Islam- Basic Principles by Jamal Badawi and Women`s Rights- a historical Perspective by Dr. Abdullah H. Al -Kahtany

Muslims respect and believe in Christianity along with all other religions. The dealings of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) with other religions can best be described in the verse of the Quran: “To you be your religion, to me be mine.” Because of a few extremist please don’t judge the majority of the peaceful Muslims. Just like Christianity should not be judged by the sexual –abuse cases in churches or the crusaders, Islam should not be judged by the actions of the few. There are EXTREMIST IN ALL RELIGIONS. When the news is about Timothy McVeigh, James Holmes…they are not called terrorist nor called by their religion but are labeled as crazy, mentally disturbed, brainwashed or socially deprived and acted individually. But when it is Umar Farooouk Abdul Mutallab or Almaleki always their religion is mentioned and are labeled as TERRORIST and are most likely linked to Al-Qaida. For your information I would like to mention that the majority of the suicide bombers are youth who are brainwashed with radical thoughts, Illiterate, desperately poor, mentally tortured, their family members kidnaped and are even blackmailed into doing such NON-Islamic Acts.

A very big responsibility lies at the hands (literally) of the media worldwide. At present they are just adding fuel to an already flammable situation. Please act responsibly: Stop the negative stereotyping of all Muslims. Stop twisting the reality and taking the teachings of the Quran out of context. Stop spreading lies and misconceptions and please get thoroughly educated about Islam and Moderate Muslims and when u need to ask an expert Irshaad Manji and Salim Mansoor do not represent majority of the Mainstream Moderate Muslim point of view…. The London Muslim Community is led by two very honorable Imams/leaders: Imam Jamal and Dr. Munir El-Kassem. I understand you have to add the spice in all your news or it will not sell…But please keep it bearable enough to digest and always balance the news with some positive and peace spreading news also.

In Conclusion I would like to once again Thank the Principal of Mother Teresa C.H.S Ana Paula Fernandes for her open mindedness, “practicing what you preach” and her step towards Islam- literally meaning Peace.

AsSalamalikum- Peace be upon you!!!

Iffat Farooqui

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  1. Gary Thomas Shepherd

    Beautifully said. Thank you for posting this.