So September is here, and the nervous excitement of the new school year is dampened with uncertainty. Instead of choosing book bags and water bottles, we are still debating between school choices for our children. Those of us who opted for public school are trying not to bring any attention to ourselves, hoping that others will stop pointing fingers and telling us that we sold out our children’s emaan for free education. Some of us are still exploring the newly acquired taste for homeschooling, unsure, uncertain, but hopeful that this new adventure will protect our children’s impressionable minds. And then there are others who managed to make it through the wait list of their chosen Islamic school, and are gasping at the shores of the island that will save their children from drowning in immorality. As different as our approaches may be, Alhamdullilah we have the opportunity to make these choices.
The impending fear of the moral corruption that lies ahead with Ontario’s new health curriculum has taken a toll on the Muslims who live here. I can’t say what impact the curriculum will have in the coming years, but what I do know, is that in the past few months, its looming presence has had an incredible effect on all of us as a community.
All of a sudden, a document published by the Ministry of Education became the measure of how “Muslim” we all are. The question was defined in black and white. Either you are with the curriculum, or against it. With little to no wiggle room, it seemed that if you said the curriculum might be slightly beneficial, you were condemned as a “progressive” Muslim, which pretty much meant, that you had sold out your deen to the system. The only right way to please the ummah was to openly declare war on sex-ed.
On the other hand, the front line fighters against the curriculum were made to look like fanatics, who were living in the dark ages, unaware of the changes in society, and the challenges which plague the Muslim youth living in Canada. They were criticized for not being in tune with modern cultural needs and incorrectly labelled as haters.
If there is one change I would like to see in Ontario’s Muslim community, it would be that they go easy on each other. Stop criticizing and finding reasons to divide, there is enough out there to pull us apart. Our strength as a community is only when we stand together. Don’t get me wrong, I am not implying that we should all view the curriculum issue through a single lens. We are all different and will approach the issue differently. Instead of criticizing, let’s listen and learn from each other. Let’s debate this issue so that it is beneficial, and grow together in our learning as we navigate through these difficulties. Sometimes we are so eager to hold on to our point of view, that we forget that there is true guidance in our deen, as long as we strive to seek it.
I understand that this issue has different perspectives and I respect everyone’s view on this. As a Muslim, I don’t support the entire curriculum because there are parts of it that are openly against the teachings of Islam, no Muslim can stand in complete support of it. However, as a parent, I know that there may be some good that comes with it, even if that good means having open conversations about morality at home. But what hurts and disappoints me the most is that this curriculum tore apart the very essence of Islamic teaching. We are supposed to be united in our love and respect for each other, even in our differences. I have seen people viciously attack each other on Facebook, commenting hatefully towards another person’s point of view. I have seen emails exchanged and open shaming of our brothers and sisters for how they think. And most hurtful of all, I have seen friendships end and communities divide. It breaks my heart to see how much damage the curriculum did, even before it was implemented.
For every time we hurt one another with our words, I wish we could take it back and offer strength and support instead. For every time we held so strongly to our own point of view that we couldn’t see our brother or sister troubled with theirs, I wish we could show more compassion. For every time this curriculum divided our ummah, I wish we could see that it could have brought us closer as well.
Stop hurting each other. Stop harming each other. We’re all in this together, and it’s our duty as Muslims to love and protect one another, as we try and do the same for our children. Every family makes choices to the best of their ability. So let’s honor that first and make dua that Allah is pleased with our decisions.
Let’s support everyone who is still trying to stand up against the curriculum, let them know that we are with them and will keep our kids at home when they ask us to strike, and sign petitions and show up at protests. And at the same time, let’s help those brothers and sisters who have children in the public school system become beautiful examples of Muslims. Let’s teach them ways to speak to their kids, give them means to connect with the teachers at school and make their presence valuable in the system.
Let’s join our hands, rather than turn our backs to each other. Don’t let this issue be the one to divide, instead, let it be the reason to strengthen our resolve to become better parents, better educators and better Muslims. I pray that as the new school year starts, all our children are protected from knowledge that isn’t beneficial, and their hearts are drawn to deen, regardless of how they are being educated.
What has your experience been with the curriculum issue? Are you tired of defending your choices? Comment and tell us what you think. We’re not here to attack or judge one another, but instead, to hear how this issue has made us all feel and learn from what others have to say.