Toronto Star: Exposing the John Tory attempt to buy religious minority votes
- FUNDING FAITH-BASED SCHOOLSreligious minority voteThe Toronto StarIn 2003, in an attempt to break into the Liberal-dominated, vote-rich urban ridings, the government of Ernie Eves started funding private religious schools with public funds. It did not work and he was voted out of office.Now, Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory has embarked on the same venture. In an apparent attempt to lure religious minority communities to vote for his party, he is dangling the carrot of funding their private, segregated religious schools.Who can blame him? After all, we all live in an era when winning elections is not a means to an end; it has become an end in itself. Securing the votes of religious minorities through their clerics' backing, even if it reverses the progress we have made as a country through public education, seems worth the price.If John Tory has his way, this is what a school system of the future will look like in the riding of Don Valley West, where he plans to unseat Education Minister Kathleen Wynne: Imagine an intersection, say Thorncliffe Park Dr. and Overlea Blvd., with a Hindu school on one corner, a Sikh school on another, a Greek Orthodox school on a third corner and, of course, a Shia or Saudi-funded Wahhabi school on the fourth.The Muslim community in Don Valley West realizes it is being courted by all sides. However, as long as we are viewed as living in ethnic ghettos where supposedly the community cleric calls the political shots, integration is hampered, not facilitated. This may make it easy for politicians of all stripes to buy our votes through self-appointed community leaders who invariably work out of places of worship and operate private religious schools, but the reality is very different.To understand the John Tory promise, it is crucial to unwrap the Ernie Eves plan. Muslims saw through his government's newfound love of diversity. While the bulk of the $300 million he promised would have ended up in the hands of the province's elite, the Muslim community would have been left picking up the crumbs and with a damaged public education system, home to 90 per cent of Muslim children.The bad news for Tory is that despite the "fundamentalist" tag generally applied to us, many in the Muslim community do not belong to this category. Most of us can see through this charade of a new-found love of religious minorities.Education is the great equalizer in society. If Tory has his way, education will become the great divider. For more than 200 years, people have struggled to free the education system from the grip of religious clerics and bring the system into the public domain. Through its publicly funded education system, a society ensures that everyone has an opportunity to achieve success.If 5-year-old children are segregated into silos of exclusivity and superiority, what sort of society will they create as adults? But that is 20 years ahead, and Tory wants their parents' votes now.A John Tory government, through its proposal to fund and promote faith-based private schools, will create a two-tiered system. Instead of assisting diversity, private religious education will simply nurture narrow-minded segregation, isolating an already marginalized and vulnerable Muslim community to send their children to poorly funded schools.The desire on anyone's part to restrict their children's education to their own values should not be supported by public tax dollars. Most Muslim parents wish their children to grow and become educated in a climate of diversity, where they can learn to respect and understand the faiths of others while being exemplary ambassadors of Islam and peace.Most Muslims do not believe in the segregation and ghettoization of their community. We believe the vast majority of religious minority parents share our concern, but have no opportunity to speak their minds. After all, the leadership of minority religious communities has been monopolized by their clerics, who have a stake in any such initiative.Let us ensure that the public education system stays as it is meant to be a system of equal opportunity for all. Now is the time to talk of a single public school board, where all of Ontario's children would be free to meet, befriend and know children of other religions, irrespective of whether they are Catholic, Protestant, Shia, Sunni, Jewish, Hindu or even atheist.
Tarek Fatah is host of The Muslim Chronicle on CTS-TV and Salma Siddiqui is vice-president of the Muslim Canadian Congress.------------------------------------------------"Morality is doing what is right, regardless what we are told.
Religious dogma is doing what we are told, no matter what is right."