What does it mean to be a citizen of a country? Is it simply to live within its borders, or does it mean one must hold certain civic values (regardless of what your faith teaches)?
Those questions are being asked as audio of a Canadian teacher scolding Muslim students for skipping LGBTQ Pride events is going viral.
"You Don't Belong"
A recording of the unnamed teacher at Londonderry Junior High School in Edmonton, Alberta chastising Muslim students has already been listened to more than two million times.
In the audio, the teacher argues that it’s important to show solidarity with other groups, pointing out that plenty of non-Muslim kids attended school events celebrating Ramadan.
“They’re showing respect in the class for your religion,” she says. It goes two ways. If you want to be respected for who you are, if you don’t want to suffer prejudice for who you are, your religion, your color of skin, your…whatever, then you’d better give it back to people who are different from you. That’s how it works, it is an exchange.”
“We believe in freedom, we believe that people can marry whomever they want,” she continues. “That is in the law! And if you don’t believe that should be the law, then you can’t be Canadian. You don’t belong here – and I mean it. I really mean it.”
Here is the full recording:
School Leadership Responds
Shortly after the audio clip went viral, the school put out a response.
“I want to emphasize that the views expressed by the teacher do not reflect the values of acceptance, inclusion and belonging that are so strong at Londonderry School,” reads the letter sent out from Principal Ed Charpentier to parents. “We know that words matter and they have the ability to bring us together and also to divide us. I want to assure you we are addressing the situation accordingly.”
It continues: "Our school community is incredibly rich and diverse, and I am inspired by it every day. This diversity and sense of belonging at school enriches student learning and experiences. Pride week is an opportunity to reflect the importance of being kind and accepting to all people. Students of all ages deserve to have their unique families and identities represented positively.”
While many appreciated the apology, others were quick to point out that it lacked specifics on what consequences, if any, the teacher will be facing.
And depending on who you ask, the teacher is either a hero standing up against religious bigotry – or a prejudiced educator trying to force a minority religion to compromise on its beliefs.
The Internet Reacts
Some people were appalled at the mere idea of a teacher telling a Muslim student they “don’t belong.”
However, others appeared in reluctant agreement with the sentiment.
“Honestly I HATE that I ever agree with a take of "you don't belong here", but she's right,” wrote one commenter. “If you believe the freedoms we carry in our country are offensive or wrong, you're more than welcome to return to or just leave to any number of countries that don't respect your freedoms.”
“If you believe gay people should be executed, then you do not belong in Canada. Period,” said another.
Anti-Pride Religious Unity?
Clearly, this remains an incredibly divisive issue. Could it also be forming new alliances across faith groups?
Elsewhere in Canada, video shared on Twitter appeared to show Muslims and Christians coming together to protest youth-focused Pride activities.
In the video, children can be seen stomping on rainbow flags as adults look on, cheering and offering encouragement:
What do you think? Is it Islamophobic to tell a Muslim they "don't belong" in your country? Is supporting LGBTQ rights a prerequisite for citizenship in a Western democratic nation?