Lesson on Islam Shuts Down Virginia School District

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Lesson on Islam Shuts Down Virginia School District.

A Virginia school district closed its schools on Friday amid an angry backlash from parents over an assignment that asked high school students to copy Arabic calligraphy as part of a lesson on world religions. Education officials in a Virginia county have cancelled classes Friday over security concerns sparked by parents’ outrage in response to an Arabic calligraphy lesson. Students in a geography class at Riverheads High School in Staunton, Va., had been asked to try their hands at copying a passage known as the shehada, or declaration of faith in Islam, which translates to, “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” The work sheet distributed to students said the assignment was meant to show them the “artistic complexity of calligraphy,” according to images of the page broadcast on local TV stations. Augusta County school officials said they had not received any specific threats but were alarmed by the volume and tone of the complaints, including some from outside Virginia, according to news reports.

But some parents accused the teacher of trying to convert their children to Islam, inciting an angry outcry in the largely rural district nestled in the Shenandoah Valley. However, the school district did not think this posed a problem as it was all about the art, not theology. “The statement presented as an example of the calligraphy was not translated for students, nor were students asked to translate it, recite it or otherwise adopt or pronounce it as a personal belief,” the district stated. However, one outraged parent told The Schilling Show, “while the Quran was presented to students, the Bible was not.” The teacher reportedly declined to provide a Bible because all the students have either read or seen a Bible.

After consulting with Sheriff Fisher, the school board decided to cancel class across the entire district “based on concerns regarding the tone and content of those communications,” it said. Some demanded that the teacher be fired. “Although students will continue to learn about world religions as required by the state Board of Education and the Commonwealth’s Standards of Learning, a different, non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy will be used in the future,” Doug Shifflett, Augusta County’s assistant superintendent for administration, said in a statement. The outcry in Augusta County comes against the backdrop of a steady drumbeat of anti-Muslim rhetoric by politicians and a nationwide wave of hate crimes targeting Muslims, including physical assaults and acts of vandalism and arson at mosques and Muslim-owned businesses, in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif. The News Virginian said Fishersville resident Tim Cooper called the newspaper’s office to ask why the Wilson Memorial High School holiday concert was cancelled. The mother has not sent her son back to school since the incident and said she would be willing to take this case all the way to the US Supreme Court if she must. ‘She [LaPorte] gave up the Lord’s time,’ Herndon said of the religious lesson when speaking to the Staunton News Leader. ‘She gave it up and gave it to Mohammed.’ On Tuesday, the Augusta County parent organized a meeting attended by more than 100 people at Good New Ministries to discuss the controversial calligraphy lesson.

Her parents called the school to object after Laurel was told a picture of her wearing the head scarf would be submitted to the yearbook, she said. “I just felt uncomfortable learning about it in a world geography class,” she told the television network. “You shouldn’t teach religion in school unless you’re in a religious class.”

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