This will be somewhat of a different post as I relate to you some thoughts going through my mind that are not about exclusively about youth ministry or popular media; however, I am sure that many of you will find this discussion interesting.

First of all, let me unpack what the somewhat provocative title says. Sharia (literally meaning the ‘way’ or the ‘path’) is a code of conduct or religious law that provides Muslims with practical guidelines for behavior in a variety of circumstances. Much of Sharia Law is derived from the teachings of the Qur’an and also from the example set by the Prophet Muhammad. In a Christian sense we can understand Sharia Law as if it were a merger of Christian religious tradition though he years and Scriptural principles into one single document. Sharia Law covers a variety of aspects of life including religious practices but also matters of finances and so on.

The school where this law is in effect is Valley Park Middle School located within the city of Toronto. This school allegedly has a significant proportion of Muslim students (to be expected in the world’s most diverse city) and thus the school accommodates a required 30-minute prayer time for Muslim students each afternoon between the months of November and March.

Here is the aspect of Sharia Law that is causing question: at these prayer times the boys must sit in the front, the girls must sit behind them, and ‘unclean’ girls (those who are menstruating) must sit at the very back and are not permitted to participate in compliance with Sharia Law. The photo included with this post demonstrates just this and is attributed to John Goddard of the Toronto Star.  The question emerges then, is this somewhat archaic expression of segregation legal within Canada today? Is this example of segregation proper for our Public School System?

One blogger is outraged by this imposition of Sharia Law and states that while this has been going on each Friday in Canada’s largest city, “…over 150 Canadian soldiers died in Afghanistan to…fight for the rights and dignity of young Muslim women like these”.

So what do we do about this? Is it just the segregation that should cause question or is the whole thing troubling? What about human equality and gender rights within our culture? Should religious groups be permitted to breech certain societal regulations for the sake of their traditions?

We have to remember that our Christian Old Testament states that women on their monthly period will be impure for seven days and anything that touches them will remain unclean until evening (Leviticus 15:19). We obviously do not adhere to this way of living as the early Jewish folks did; is there something here we can help Muslims to better understand?

Stay tuned for part two scheduled for release tomorrow afternoon as I continue to wrestle through some of this and let you know what I have found. In the meantime, leave a comment to let me know what you think.

The full news article on this event can be found here.

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