Friday, January 26, 2007

Montreal School Boards Exempt Muslim Students From Music Class

A handful of school boards in Montreal are allowing Muslim students to opt out of mandatory music classes because some parents believe it contravenes the Qur'an. School boards are making the exception in an attempt to accommodate devout Muslim families who don't want their children to learn how to play instruments or sing. The director general of the English Montreal School Board (EMSB), Tony Lacroce, told reporters that schools are increasingly willing to take steps to respect their students' cultural and religious backgrounds. "You have some parents who insist on it, and when the parents insist, then obviously we accommodate." The option of opting out creates some logistical concerns for music teachers, but Lacroce said students who don't participate in class can take part in other types of music education, such as studying composers.The efforts at accommodation are laudable but point to a need for greater discussion among Muslims and educators, according to Omar Koné, a Montreal imam who has worked as a consultant with school boards on the issue of religious accommodation. Only a small minority of Muslims believe music disrespects the Qu'ran's teachings. "This is beyond the requests of traditional Islam, and it might be also beyond reasonable accommodation," said Koné. Montreal's largest francophone school board, the Commission Scolaire Marguerite Bourgeoys, also allows Muslim students to opt out of music classes.