A few years ago I wrote an essay for the Tabah Foundation titled “Reasonable Accommodation: Religion, Secular Law and the Limits of Multiculturalism”. At the time, Dr. Charles Taylor, a world-renowned philosopher and author of A Secular Age and Dr. Gerard Bouchard, a reputable Canadian sociologist, had been appointed to carry out a series of public consultations in Quebec. The provincial government wanted a formula to handle the apparently never-ending stream of demands from faith communities for religious accommodation in the public sphere. The commission was dubbed “Reasonable Accommodation.”
I felt it was important for Muslims living as minorities in the West to become familiar with the debate and the findings of the commission. It was not just a theoretical exercise but rather addressing an issue that Muslims need to understand better in order to adapt to the terrain of liberal secular societies.
Now that the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), the largest school Board in Canada and fourth largest in North America, is being attacked for allowing Muslim students at Valley Park Middle School to offer the Friday congregational prayers in the school’s cafeteria, it is important to revisit the topic and to ask whether this particular accommodation meets the yardstick of ‘reasonable’ or not?