Religion in schools is always a hot topic; throw in Islam, and you've got a blaze: this week, a father, mad about his daughter's "Islamic" homework, was banned from school property after allegedly causing a "disturbance" when meeting school officials. To be clear, this wasn't pro-Islamic homework. It was an essay about the five pillars of Islam for a Middle Eastern empires class. But this, to former U.S. Marine Kevin Wood, was already too much.
Maryland's La Plata High School has a rich and diverse curriculum. One of the things that they teach in their World History class is Middle Eastern empires — this looks at how religions helped to create empires throughout the centuries. Makes sense that looking at Islam would be an essential part of that. Explained Katie O’Malley-Simpson, director of communications, to the New York Daily News:
This particular unit is on the formation of the Middle Eastern empires, and the students learn the basic concepts of Islam along with politics and culture. When kids study the Renaissance and Reformation, they study concepts of Christianity. When they learn how China and India developed, they learn about Hinduism and Buddhism.
For Wood, an Iraq war veteran, the fact that his daughter was learning about this particular world religion was just unacceptable. As soon as he found out his daughter's assignment — a three-page essay about Islam’s Five Pillars, Mecca and Muhammad — he asked for his daughter to get a different topic; when the school refused, he met with the principal. As he told Fox News:
I don’t agree with it. You can’t study God or Christianity in school. You’ve got atheist suing schools for saying "God" in the pledge and not being able to say prayers before football games, but we can force-feed our kids Islam.
[Schools] are not teaching about radical Islam right now — going around beheading people in America and Australia and they're not teaching that. They're just teaching, "Oh, it's peaceful." And it's not peaceful.
According to school authorities, the meeting did not go down well, and on Friday, he was given a no-trespass order. As O’Malley-Simpson told the Daily News:
The vice principal believed he threatened to cause problems at the high school on Monday morning. He said he would cause a disruption at the school.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering our current Islamophobic climate, this isn't the first time that a parent has made a fuss over the teaching of Islam in classrooms. Just this month, Anthony Giannino told WHDH-TV that he'd pulled his son out of class after seeing a section in his son's worksheet about the Islamic call to prayer. And the pushback against learning about Islam will only continue to grow as extremists continue to dominate the religion — but this is what makes it all the more important to learn about its roots in school. As Zainab Chaudry, the Maryland Outreach Manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told WUSA-9:
It's important that if these [extremist] groups are mentioned and that students are taught about that, that a distinction is made so students understand that these groups are not following the teachings of true Islam. There is a minority extremist group within every religion that distort the teachings of that religion. Islam is a peaceful religion. It's peacefully followed by 1.5 billion people in all parts of the world.If schools can help dispel hatred, stereotypes and phobias — whether they be to do with sexuality or religion — then that's absolutely what they should be doing. No matter what their parents may think.
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