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Virginia schools shut in Islam calligraphy row

Discussion in 'Education news' started by chelsea2, Dec 18, 2015.

  1. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

    A vindication for teaching RE?
    A sad indictment of people's lack of understanding and / or ignorance?
    A reflection of people's fears?
    Mob rule?

    A school district in the US state of Virginia has closed all schools on Friday after a geography lesson that included Islam sparked vociferous complaints from around the country.

    Students were asked to trace Arabic calligraphy in an exercise some parents said amounted to indoctrination.

    Officials said the schools were closed out of an "abundance of caution" and there were no specific safety threats.

    School administrators say a different lesson will be used in the future.

    One week ago, students at Riverheads High School were studying the Middle East and were asked to trace a piece of Arabic calligraphy that translated to: "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah".

    Some pupils refused the assignment and parents accused the teacher of indoctrination.

    Officials with the Augusta County school district were quick to point out that the study of a region's religion and language are included in geography lessons.

    However, anger built up and by Wednesday complaints had become so numerous that the school's doors were locked and monitored.

    told the News Virginian newspaper.

    On the paper's Facebook account, locals have been debating the closure with one man saying, "our patriot forefathers are rolling in their graves," and another rhetorically posting, "how do these terrified people leave their houses every day?"


  2. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    And these people are allowed to buy guns?
  3. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    And vote . . .

    Best wishes

  4. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

    The most powerful nation in the world....:eek:
  5. lanokia

    lanokia Star commenter

  6. monicabilongame

    monicabilongame Star commenter

    I can actually see why some parents might have thought it was indoctrination, given the importance and meaning of the piece of calligraphy in Islam. That said, whoever dished out the worksheet should have given it some thought and not used that particular phrase - there are plenty of others that could be used, although this one was probably the most available online/out of a book.

    So, lack of sensitivity and commonsense all round methinks.
    phlogiston and harsh-but-fair like this.
  7. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

    Indoctrination - just copying it?

    In British schools I would hope it would have engendered much discussion as to what it means to Muslims, how it is linked with the other Abrahamic faiths & their beliefs (e.g. Jewish Shema: ' Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One'; Christian: 'God loved the world so much he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not die but have everlasting life'), etc. And hopefully the context and the discussion would have helped greater understanding between and within faiths.

    In the US (and many other countries), I guess that wouldn't be allowed, as the teaching of RE is not part of the curriculum. And from this story it appears that any reference to people's beliefs leads to accusations of indoctrination. How people can be deemed to have received a 'broad & balanced' education without studying an aspect of people's lives which has as much, if not more, effect on them as their environment & their history is a mystery to me. To omit teaching about world faiths leads to the response we have here, which is based on ignorance & fear.
  8. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Could only have been indoctrination if the parents actually believed the schools in Virginia were run by Muslims!
  9. monicabilongame

    monicabilongame Star commenter

    The only thing a convert to Islam has to do (externally) is to say that phrase. The parents won't know enough about the theology of Islam to know there also has to be real intent to convert to the religion (much as in Christianity where a baptism doesn't really 'count' if the baptisee has no interior conversion or intent to become a Christian) so if they know that this is the phrase one uses to become a Muslim, and that their kids are busy copying it out then they will get the wrong end of the stick.

    And it only needs the RE teacher to be a Muslim for anyone to think it's indoctrination.... and let's face it, in a country where people believe that solar power sucks all the energy from the sun, and wind power will stop the wind blowing, and that natural disasters happen because there are gay people getting married, the ignorance about other things is no surprise.
  10. Middlemarch

    Middlemarch Star commenter

    My objection is that copying Arabic is a poor learning activity - it's just busywork.
    harsh-but-fair likes this.
  11. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    Spot on!

    Best wishes

  12. FreeSpeaker

    FreeSpeaker Occasional commenter

    The misinformation in some media, such as Al Jazera, ignores that the text the Christian children were asked to write is the Shahada.
    Arabic is a great language for practising calligraphy, but asking children to write the belief that there is only one god and Mo is her best pal (or however it is translated) is not acceptable in what is predominately a Christian school.
    Few would think it acceptable for a muslim school to have children write Biblical references professing that Jesus is the son of god.
    My self declared atheist daughter (aged 10) would refuse to write the shahada and I would support her fully.
  13. FreeSpeaker

    FreeSpeaker Occasional commenter

    Nonsense, Arabic is a beautiful language to both write and speak. Is anti Middle Eastern sentiment clouding your judgement? I spent many years in the much misunderstood Saudi Arabia and get rather tired of silly Brits with anti Arab ideas.
  14. FreeSpeaker

    FreeSpeaker Occasional commenter

    You read too much Guardian. The solar power incident was misreported.
  15. FreeSpeaker

    FreeSpeaker Occasional commenter

    Are you suggesting we should decide whether some people are allowed to vote or not based on your opinions of them? I have no idea who you are, but that sort of nonsense borders on dictatorship of the worst kind.
    In a true democratic, free society every adult citizen should allowed to vote and each vote should be equal in the representation it leads to.
  16. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

    But this wasn't a Christian school, was it?
  17. Didactylos4

    Didactylos4 Star commenter

    Practising calligraphy in a foreign language for no other purpose than to practice calligraphy IS busywork.
    It's fine if you are teaching the language
  18. FreeSpeaker

    FreeSpeaker Occasional commenter

    Irrelevant semantics. It has a predominantly Christian intake. Requiring any students to write the islamic declaration of faith is unacceptable in any US state school.
  19. FreeSpeaker

    FreeSpeaker Occasional commenter

    The lesson was calligraphy. Studying forms of Arabic for calligraphy is fine, writing the shahada is not.
  20. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

    And you know that the pupils are predominantly Christian, do you? Active, practising Christians? Or are you using 'Christian' as a shorthand for a Christian-influenced culture? This is not semantics - the difference in meaning is huge.

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