Virginia Schools Close Over Islamic Calligraphy Lesson

Parents were, of course, outraged at the Islamic calligraphy assignment, yet the district saw no issue in the World Geography lesson saying, “There was no (sic) attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion, or a request for students to renounce their own faith or profess any belief.”

After the massive wave of protest through phone calls and email, the school got the message and felt the need to close the schools on Friday.

“Following parental objections to the World Geography curriculum and ensuing related media coverage, the school division began receiving voluminous phone calls and electronic mail locally and from outside the area,” wrote the Augusta County School Board in a statement. “Based on concerns regarding the tone and content of those communications…schools and school offices will be closed on Friday, December 18, 2015.”

Superintendent Eric Bond stated that when geography is taught about a certain region, there is written language and religion also taught.  He said other religions are also covered.

The issue at hand is not learning about Islam, but rather the choice in what the students were asked to write.  There are many noteworthy Persian and Arabic pieces of literature which could have been utilized, yet the teacher chose something that would incite.

Teacher Cheryl LaPonte gave students an assignment that involved practicing calligraphy and writing a Muslim statement of faith, also known as shahada. The statement translates as: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”Students were also reportedly shown copies of the Koran.

According to News Leader, the local newspaper, recitation of the shahada is a “fundamental step in conversion to Islam.” Students were not asked to translate the statement or to recite it, and the exercise was within the Virginia Standards of Learning for the study of monotheistic world religions. Some students refused to complete the assignment, and some parents became outraged to the point that they wanted to pull their children out of the world geography class, the newspaper said.

Attempting to diffuse the situation, Bond said the assignment was “to demonstrate the complex artistry of the written language used in the Middle East, and were asked to attempt to copy it in order to give the students an idea of the artistic complexity of the calligraphy.”

Again, if this is the heart of the case, then at the very least the district as well as the teacher should own up to bad judgement.

A former English teacher Debbie Ballew told News Leader that there is a double standard amongst public schools and the public. She said that if she had asked her pupils to copy passages from the Bible, she would have been fired. More than one person at the forum called for the teacher’s termination.

The double-standard is real.  The district's notice has been served and the residents are taking names.

Source: RT




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