On November 8th, I have had the privilege of being in attendance at a historical delegation of three really bright Peel students.

Maleeha Baig, Shahmir Durrani and Hamza Aziz so articulately presented their concerns about the newly imposed Jummah prayer policies by Peel District School Board and staff. The policy dictates the Friday sermons(Khutbas) format by providing a pre approved 6 Khutbas collection to be used by students over and over throughout the year. These Khutbas have been prepared by a team of PDSB approved faith leaders with a clear intention of guiding the purely religious Friday prayers for students just like any other class. These 3 students who represented a wide range of Peel students presented their concerns about these prescribed Khutbas in Peel schools.
I fully support their case and salute them for being so articulate, respectful and confident while presenting their case to the board. I hope that PDSB will be supportive of the very demographic they serve. …our children and youth.

I also respect the work of faith leaders who worked to assemble these Khutbas but I think there wasn’t a wide scale involvement of faith leaders and absolutely no involvement of Muslim women/ parental voice at that table( Muslim women/ parents were refused to take part in this with a reason that PDSB staff thinks only male Imams can be the representative leaders for Muslim community). There was no consultation process on the policy for parents, Imams at large and most importantly the students who are directly effected by the policy named “Jummah prayer policy” (clearly directed to Muslim youth and children), which might also cause more stress for youth being cornered based on their faith.

Youth presented their challenging case so well and I saw Maleeha Baig, Shahmir Durrani & Hamza as heros for many voiceless youth. They shared legit concerns about mental and emotional well being of the effected segment of the demographic in Peel schools.
As elders, we should respect the opinion and presented case of these young folks who deal with issues on the ground. They are the ones who face the challenges of bullying, Islamophobia, mental health and peer pressure. They want their Khutbas to be directed towards their own ground realities based on Islamic teachings. They do seek advice and voice of our leaders to present their concerns as they arise, however by the time they get to reach out to Imams to become their rescue heros (after weeks of discussion and arguments of course among leaders), it’s usually too late to resolve certain disparities, anxieties and stresses.

As a mother of 2 teens, a youth mentor for girls and a community activist, I hear stories of what happens on the playgrounds and how sometimes bullying and harassment does come from authority figures from schools. These stories mind you, are not always heard let alone documented for so many different reasons. As a teacher and go to person for several youth, Imam Ibrahim Hindy expressed the same concerns very eloquently after the Youth finished their presentation.

As a society my question for all of us is, when would we start trusting and supporting our youth who really wants to think outside of the box? and
When would we create space for our young folks who actually want to take the ownership of their work dealing with their own challenges?
Regardless of which community/ faith they belonged to, when would we start hearing their voices without labeling them as rebels, naive or extremists?
It’s not good enough to tell them they’re not old enough to challenge the status co, the need is to support their advocacy efforts. I for one, know I am supportive of voices of youth without discrimination, racism and faith phobia because I think WE NEED TO THINK NOW before we disenfranchise even more young people….

Please THINK…will ya?

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