Muslim students living near the provincial capitol of Toronto say they don’t feel safe despite the support of the Ontario government and the Peel District School Board.
Hamza Aziz told the Globe and Mail on Friday that he never leaves the house alone or goes out after dark — even though neither he nor any Muslim living in this Toronto suburb has been subject to any physical violence or verbal threats.
Many non-Muslim students and their parents are questioning why Aziz is authorized by Ontario’s public school system to attend special Islamic prayer sessions every Friday on school property when other religions, including the majority Christian religion, are provided no such opportunities.
The parents are being subjected to increasing surveillance. They attended the last session of Peel school board on Wednesday where they were forced to sign-in, told to provide identification, subject to videotaping and were surrounded by school board security and local police — all because of student “anxiety.”
Aziz claims his parents “are afraid of hate crimes towards the Muslim community,” which Aziz suggests have “been on the rise lately.”
The so-called “hate crimes” include the recent posting of a video on social media that offered a cash reward for any proof that Muslim students are themselves inciting hatred at their Friday prayer sessions where the language of choice is Arabic.
The parents have been subject to verbal abuse from the school board and provincial government that deems their opposition as racist. The Ontario education minister says Ontario schools are legally required to provide religious instruction if students request it yet the province has squeezed all references to Christian symbols from the public school system.
Yet it is Muslim students who continue to describe themselves as victims. One teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, said she is growing more nervous as non-Muslim parents are ignored by the school board. “As a parent, I get afraid that what if one day that hate and negative rhetoric becomes escalated and it’s a Muslim child who ends up being in front of that heat.”
She claims that some Muslims in the community have been “targeted” on social media after they complained about Islamophobia.
When asked how he has been affected by the alleged Islamophobia in the community, Aziz says he “overheard” two people refer to him as a terrorist and another say directly to him that he wasn’t a “real Canadian.”