Va. county’s schools closed Friday after Islam-related assignment controversy

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Parents’ outrage after Virginia high school students are asked to practice calligraphy by writing ‘There is no god but Allah’.

Schools in Augusta County will be closed Friday after students were given a calligraphy assignment that directed them to copy the Arabic for “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” The school district said they were closing schools after parents objected to the World Geography curriculum, which led to media coverage, which led to “phone calls and electronic mail” that raised concerns because of their “tone and content.” The district’s statement said there was “no specific threat of harm to students” but they were closing downs schools “on the recommendations of law enforcement and the Augusta County School Board out of an abundance of caution.” As to the lesson itself, the district said the assignment was not “designed to promote a religious viewpoint or change any student’s religious belief.” But because of concern, the district said future world religion assignments would use “a different, non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy.” The uproar over an Arabic assignment at a Virginia school has grown to the point where school district officials have canceled Friday classes for all schools under their authority.Islamophobia has reached levels comparable to the period in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, and it seems that this fear of the religion has manifested itself in an absolute unwillingness of many parents to have their children learn about Islam in school.

HARRISONBURG, VA — Kimberly Herndon says she felt her rights as a parent had been violated when her 9th grade son came home with a controversial homework assignment. The controversy began earlier this week at Riverheads High School in Staunton, Virginia over a World Geography class assignment in which students copied a piece of Arabic text as part of a calligraphy lesson.

But media covereage on the issue and subsequent public interest “locally and from outside the area” led to “volumnious phone calls” and emails to Augusta County schools, many of which prompted “concerns regarding the tone and content of those communications,” the school board said. The teacher had the kids copy the Muslim statement of faith, also known as the shahada. “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. Herndon said she was “led by the Lord” to organize a meeting Tuesday night at a local church to call for the termination of the teacher and asked for “security on the grounds to make sure no one gets out of hand.” “Mrs. Laporte has taught this same lesson year after year and I hope she has the chance to do it again for many more years,” posted Sarah Tyree, a former student.

Imagine if the sample text for this calligraphy assignment had been: “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” Or: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Or any other passage from the Bible. Tara Cali, a mother in Bakersfield, California, sent an angry message back to her son’s teachers after she saw that her son had a homework assignment about Islam.

And notice the headline of that WSET story: “Calligraphy Assignment Causes Uproar with Parents.” That’s the most important part of the story, isn’t it? They just wanted students to participate in “hands-on activities intended to give them a better objective understanding of the region and its culture (including its religions and to allow for interactive learning.” Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. Not only did she refuse to allow her son to be “part of this in any sort of way,” she scribbled references to a number of Bible verses on the assignment to be sent back to the school. Riverheads ninth-grader Laurel Truxell told the station WHSV she did not feel comfortable copying the Arabic text or putting on the scarf meant to mimic the Islamic Hijab. His latest book is “God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values.” Follow Todd on Twitter@ToddStarnes and find him on Facebook.

If this story was about Muslim parents protesting religion in schools, do you really think the word “Christian” would be left out of the headline?

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