Student seen ripping pages from Qur'an 'a concerning incident of Islamophobia,' says Ontario school board
Students at a high school east of Oshawa, Ont., are taking their concerns to the school board after a video appearing to show a student tearing up pages from a Qur'an and crumpling them up began to circulate last week.
School board officials say they became aware of a "concerning incident of Islamophobia" on March 3 at Courtice Secondary School after a student damaged a Qur'an earlier that day.
"While we cannot comment on individual disciplinary actions, the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board takes all allegations of discrimination seriously and is taking immediate steps to address this very serious incident," said board chairperson Steve Russell and superintendent of education Jamila Maliha in a statement Thursday.
"The [board] will not tolerate acts of hate towards persons or symbols of faith and are resolute in our commitment to the values of equity, diversity, inclusivity and the dignity and humanity of every individual," it added.
"We are committed to repairing the harm that has been caused to the Muslim community as a result of this incident."
CBC Toronto received video appearing to show the student's actions but was unable to independently confirm its authenticity. In the video, a boy appeared to open the Qur'an, tearing out pages and crumpling them, then pointing both middle fingers at it.
Qur'an taken at event meant to fight Islamophobia, says student
Munawara Mazlomyar, a Grade 12 student at the school, said the incident left her "stunned."
She said the school's Muslim Student Association (MSA) held an event that day called "Ask a Muslim a question," to engage with non-Muslim students about the religion and try and tackle Islamophobia.
"We had Qur'ans in English translation displayed because we wanted anyone who was interested in learning about our religion to be able to take it and read about it," Mazlomyar said.
Mazlomyar said a student grabbed one of the Qur'ans on display and that video later emerged of the same student ripping and crumpling pages from it. She said the student also encouraged others to put the book down their pants.
"I was extremely upset. I felt heartbroken because the the reason we had them on display was for people to gain knowledge about Islam."
Mazlomyar said as a visibly Muslim woman, the incident made her feel unsafe at the school.
Mazlomyar said students should have been made aware of the incident by school administration before finding out about what happened on social media or by word of mouth. She is now calling on the school and board to launch an educational campaign to counter Islamophobia and allow for classroom discussions on the issue.
Education minister condemns incident
Ontario's Education Minister Stephen Lecce condemned the actions on Friday.
"I don't want any child, particularly Muslim children in that school or around the province or country to be disheartened," Lecce said at a news conference unrelated to the incident.
"We believe in them, we support them and we're going to continue to fund the organizations that advocate for them so that we don't see these circumstances happen again."
Lecce added that he is pleased that the government continues to fund the Muslim Association of Canada to help train staff and for students to counter Islamophobia.
The school board meanwhile says it will continue to consult community groups for feedback and support the students and staff affected.
"As part of our next steps in response to this issue, we have reached out to several community groups to work collaboratively, answer questions and concerns, and hear their suggestions about how to repair the harm that this incident has caused," the statement reads.