The Ontario provincial government sanctioned special religious status for Muslim students in the public school system after the Canadian House of Commons voted in favor of an “Islamophobia” motion Thursday that critics say could have long-term consequences on freedom of speech.

The Peel District School Board, responsible for a large swath of schools in the suburbs of Toronto, allows Muslim students to hold regular Friday prayer session on school time and on school property. Parents have objected to this practice because they say Christians and Jews are not allowed to hold religious meetings.

“I have met with the leadership of Peel and have obviously been very concerned about what I’ve seen and heard,” said Education Minister Mitzie Hunter in a joint statement with Children and Youth Services Minister Michael Coteau, who back the school board. Later, she told reporters in Toronto, “It felt important to Minister Coteau and I to really reinforce our expectations … there’s just no tolerance for discrimination of any sort. We don’t tolerate issues of racism and Islamophobia.”

The school prayers have become an issue because local imams are invited to pray and speak to the students in Arabic, and the school board cannot provide assurances that the students are not being subjected to radical Islamic indoctrination.

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