An Islam homework assignment that was required by a Virginia high school teacher has some parents claiming that their children are victims of “Islamic indoctrination.” This has snowballed into such a hot-button issue with outrage coming from the community and beyond that officials closed all the schools in this Augusta district on Friday, which was 24 schools in all.
The students were told by their teacher as part of their studies they would practice calligraphy as a part of a world geography class about religions. The homework was to write a sentence, handed out by the teacher in Arabic for the students to sharpen their calligraphy skills.
According to News Max on December 18, the sentence in Arabic was handed out, but what it translated into is what caused outrage. When translated the sentence reads: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” In today’s world you can understand why the parents were more than concerned. Couldn’t the teacher have given them a generic sentence like the sky is blue and the river is cold?
The homework assignment said, ” Here is the shahada, the Islamic statement of faith written in Arabic below, try copying it by hand. This should give you an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy.” This was taken out of a workbook that the teacher had, it wasn’t as if she made it up herself. “The school division began receiving voluminous phone calls and electronic mail locally and from outside the area,” the school system said. “And the tone and content were nasty,” according to CNN News.
Along with their studies the children were required to dress in a related way for a picture that was to be taken. The kids were also shown copies of the Quran. When one student who was uneasy about dressing this way, but she did so at the insistence of the teacher who the student described as relentless about getting her to do this. She said the teacher “pushed and pushed and pushed” until she said yes.
She did not want that picture to be part of the yearbook, but the teacher made it part of the book anyway. This is when this young ladies parents stepped in. These parents were part of an irate group of about 100 people who made their way to a school-held forum centering on this homework that the teacher Chery LaPorte handed out to her students.
According to RT News, “Media coverage of the complaints created a backlash of phone calls and emails for Riverheads High School, and officials decided to close all public schools on Friday and increase police presence as a result.” Once the media ran with the story the school system was getting a lot of outside response. For the kids’ safety they not only canceled school activities on Thursday night, but schools were canceled altogether on Friday for the complete district.
Former students of the teacher took to the social media to defend her as people demanded she be fired. This topic turned into a polarized debate online with some saying there’s nothing wrong with learning about different cultures and others claiming there is only “one God.” This escalated throughout the week until the end result was closing the schools in the district on Friday out of abundance of caution. According to CNN, “As passions overflow, for fear of their potential effects, Augusta County Schools will remain shuttered over the weekend for all activities.”