Opinion: “Free societies tolerate public expressions of faith, including Muslims praying in a park”

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On July 2, a controversy erupted over a group of Muslims praying in public at the Parc Safari zoo in Hemmingford, Quebec. According to one of the zoo’s spokespersons, the Muslims didn’t solicit other visitors, were not disrupting other guests or animals, and didn’t block any paths.

Nonetheless, some individuals objected to these Muslims praying in public after a video of their activities was posted on Facebook. Commentators posted statements like: “Can you just do this in your living room and not impose it on me please!” and “Go live your faith in your mosques, outside no one is interested.” Some went so far as to call for a boycott of the zoo.

Parc Safari president Jean-Pierre Ranger responded laudably to these comments. Having operated the zoo for the better part of 45 years, he said he was not about to change how he runs his business: “I’m very proud of what Parc Safari stands for and nobody is going to tell us how to behave, whether they’re Muslim or any other faith, or those do-gooders that think they can run the world.”

Yet, it’s troubling that some individuals fail to understand that a free society allows public expression of religious faith. The people who would like the government to ban strong criticism of Islam exhibit similar misunderstandings. While these two groups may have different reasons for wanting to limit expression, both are animated by a desire to restrict freedoms that Canadians enjoy.

  • Sid Falco

    When can I go for a beer in Mecca?

  • tom_billesley

    Oh, get a room.

  • Hard Little Machine

    Pray in the lion cage.

  • Starlord

    I demand freedom from religion. I shouldn’t see it at work, school or public places. Keep it at sites of worship or your house or private venue.

    With diversity we can’t cater to all forms of it so best thing is to have freedom of religion as the basis
    No more catering or vote whoring..

    Just give me freedom of religion!

  • Alain

    We must allow public expression of religious faith is nonsense, because that is NOT and Never is what is going on. It is the standard giving the finger to the host country and its citizens and daring them to object. You simply do not see this crap taking place in Muslim countries.

    • Consider this: one may say Grace before meals in an unobtrusive manner. It is unlikely that this person is attempting proselytise but simply doing what he does often. Public demonstrations of Islamist prayers definitely have a political purpose as opposed to a private, personal one.

  • PaulW

    What if the expression of their religion involves slashing the throats of infidels? Or, in a less extreme case, blaring their damn call to prayer 5 times a day? Are those legitimate expressions of religious freedom?

  • Yo Mama

    Except when muzzies pray any place it is to claim the place as their own.

  • Coupal

    What none of these media is reporting is that the prayers were in Arabic and those words were probably “bism allah alrahman alraheem”, which means “in the name of Allah the most gracious and most merciful”. These are the opening words of every chapter of the Qur’an except one (the chapter of the sword – the 9th). By uttering these words on the grounds of the park, the muslims “sanctified” the park and claimed it for Islam.

  • marty_p

    This is the only Mecca I am interested in:

    I can’t believe the Mo’s haven’t threatened or lobbied to have this stuff taken off the market as being blasphemous.