After a teacher at a Virginia school handed out a homework assignment on Islam, such an angry backlash flooded in that it prompted officials to close every single school in the county as a safety precaution.
“While there has been no specific threat of harm to students, schools and school offices will be closed Friday, December 18, 2015,” Augusta County Schools said. Extracurricular activities were shut down Thursday afternoon.
And social media exploded over the school lesson — a simple drawing assignment — into a caustic discussion about religion and education.
When the world geography class at Riverheads High School in Staunton rolled around to the subject of major world religions, homework on Islam asked students to copy religious calligraphy.
“Here is the shahada, the Islamic statement of faith, written in Arabic. In the space below, try copying it by hand. This should give you an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy.”
The illustrative classical Arabic phrase was the basic statement in Islam. It translated to: “There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is the messenger of Allah.”
When students took it home, it was like a spark hitting a powder keg. Some of their parents saw the homework as an attempt to convert their children to Islam.
Calls and emails flooded the school. Some of them demanded the teacher be fired for assigning it.
Cheryl LaPorte had not designed the assignment herself, but took it from a standard workbook on world religions, local newspaper The News Leader reported.
LaPorte told The News Leader that now her job is to get her students through Standards of Learning tests.
No more shahada
The county school system reacted.
It removed the shahada from world religion instruction. “A different, non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy will be used in the future,” it said.
And it issued a statement saying no one was trying to convert anyone to any religion.
“Neither of these lessons, nor any other lessons in the world geography course, are an attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion or a request for students to renounce their own faith or profess any belief,” Augusta County Schools official Eric Bond said in a statement to CNN affiliate WHSV.
However, it stands to reason that parents are upset because the culture is kowtowing to the Islamic faith and people have had enough. Our nation was founded on Christian principles. There is room for other cultures, but not at the expense of Christianity.