Re: One family speaks out on hatred at Muslim school

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Posted by Al Gordon on 12:39:16 2005/03/25

In Reply to: Re: Truth and love taught in Islamic schools posted by Al Gordon

Fri, March 25, 2005

'There is no room for hatred'

By EARL McRAE -- For the Ottawa Sun

Rashid Nasim arrives at Abraar Islamic elementary school to pick up his young daughter, and he's upset, he wants answers.

"I want to speak to the principal, I want to speak to teachers. This is not what I want from this school. We didn't have our daughter go here for this. I want to know how this could happen."

Rashid Nasim wants to know why a Muslim pupil at the private school was allowed to get away with a project in which he wrote a stridently anti-Semitic story about Palestinians revengefully killing Jews in the Middle East. He wants to know why two teachers were approving of the completed work. He wants to know why it was put on display in the school as if to be proud of.

Rashid Nasim, 31, owns three of the Curves For Women fitness centres in Ottawa. His wife, Shaista Zareef, is a family physician. Their four-year old daughter Mariya is in junior kindergarten at Abraar. The family is Muslim. Nasim was born in Pakistan and grew up in Montreal where he attended a Catholic high school. "I'm glad I did. Where does it say I can't learn about other religions? The ignorance about other religions and cultures, that's what breeds fear and hatred.

"We are practising Muslims and wanted her to go here for the cultural education and strong moral foundation it provides. We spoke to the principal, and were convinced it was the right choice."

The principal is Dr. Aisha Sherazi, who has suspended the two teachers.

"The view of the child who wrote the story is not a view accepted by the overall teachers, the administration, or the other students. It was one individual opinion. It was the culture he was brought up in over there. Any child coming from that environment would have that feeling.

"To be allowed to express it in a school setting that might influence other students at that impressionable age, that's the issue. But why did the teachers seem to encourage it, why did one of them write the favourable comments on it? I want to know -- was it assigned or was it original?

"I don't want my daughter's school tarnished by this. This is not what the school stands for. We don't want the community to feel threatened. I am not anti-Semitic. I have Jewish employees. Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jew -- all people deserve respect, there is no room for hatred."

For a story by a child who could have been in only Grade 8 at the most, the political knowledge, writing style, and language seemed suspiciously sophisticated. "That's exactly what I thought," says Prosper Torjman, principal of Yitzhak Rabin High School. "I was appalled by it. And then the fact that it was an assignment put on display absolutely shocked me. Before we'd ever put something on display here, we'd scrutinize what was written. But, that kind of thing that was written would never happen in my school. It just wouldn't."

"As a Jewish private school, we've always reached out to the public to spread peace. Schools of other religions invite our students to visit for religious and cultural educational sessions, and we do the same. Anti-Semitism harms the whole community, not just the Jewish community."

Rubin Friedman is director of planning and affairs for the VAAD, the Ottawa Jewish community council. "My reaction was shock and dismay. The principal was right to suspend the teachers, but here's my question: The story was written in Arabic and then displayed. The principal doesn't speak Arabic, but did she not see his drawing on it? The machinegun, the Star of David in flames? The Palestinian flag? Did she not notice it? And if she did, why didn't it arouse her suspicion, why didn't she do something about it?

"We (the VAAD) have had complaints of anti-Semitism before about that area. We've been told about Muslim parents concerned about some of the things their kids said they were being taught. As for the story being too mature and politically knowledgeable for a young boy alone to have written, I've had people report to me about Muslim kids in Ottawa as young as three spouting anti-Semitism with information you'd think they wouldn't know.

"They get it from their parents, or they see it with their parents on Al-Jazeera via satellite. Vicious, hate rhetoric is not something you're born with. You're taught it."

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