Seventh-graders at a West Virginia public school were asked to write the Islamic declaration of faith in Arabic calligraphy in a social-studies class, drawing outrage from a Christian parent.
Parent Rich Penkoski contacted Principal Ron Branch at Mountain Ridge Middle School in Gerrardstown about the assignment, which was part of a world-religions unit, the Christian Post reported.
The assignment was included in a packet sent home with students of information about the history of Islam, the prophet Muhammad and the five pillars of the religion.
But Penkoski, the Christian Post said, was most upset with a worksheet that instructs students to practice calligraphy by copying by hand the Arabic form of the Shahada.
The Shahada is the Islamic profession of faith that declares Allah is the one true god and Muhammad is his messenger.
“I saw the assignment of writing the Shahada in Arabic. Their excuse was calligraphy,” Penkoski told the Christian Post. “I was like, ‘Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!’ First of all, calligraphy was invented in China 3,000 years prior to Muhammad. The fact that they were trying to get my daughter to write that disturbed me.’
“I said, ‘That is not happening. My daughter is not doing that,'” he said. “My daughter told me that if she didn’t do the assignment then she was going to get a [detention] slip.”
Penkoski said the school told him the packet was an optional assignment. But he claims the school is only now saying it is optional because of his protest.
“Why would they print all that out and then tell them they don’t have to do it?” Penkoski asked. “When they were given a packet [on Christianity], which didn’t go into that much detail, they did have to write an essay. So you’re telling me they don’t have to do it now that I called you on it? It makes no sense and it is not consistent.”
Penkoski said his daughter claimed the teacher told her the Shahada assignment was mandatory.
Principal Ron Branch told the Christian Post in an email the Shahada calligraphy was not officially assigned to students.
“There were two calligraphy activities in the packet. One involving the Shahada and one that is just English letters in which the students can write whatever they want in calligraphy,” Branch said. “The teacher told the students that they could do these activities if they wanted.”
Branch said the world religions unit gives each religion “equitable treatment.”
“The units on Judaism and Christianity were about a week-and-a-half. Each of the other units should take about a week. Jesus was taught,” he said. “The students read the chapter in our textbook that discusses Christianity’s belief that Jesus is the Son of God and salvation. They also discussed the Sermon on the Mount, the Last Supper and Jesus’ Betrayal, the Trinity, and the Lord’s Prayer, among other topics.”
Brielle Penkoski told the Christian Post that she didn’t recall any instruction on the Lord’s Prayer.
“We did [the unit on Christianity] over a week and two days. We watched two different videos. We didn’t finish them. They taught a little bit about Moses and the Ten Commandments, Peter and Paul,” she explained. “We learned about the Israelites and how they are being persecuted by the Romans. We were told about the Jews and told a little bit about Jesus.”
Penkoski showed the Christian Post other packets that were handed out to the students on Christianity and Judaism.
“Notice no Bible verses, no reciting the Ten Commandments or the Lord’s Prayer,” he objected, adding that the Islam packet contained passages from the Quran. “[There’s] no practicing writing in Hebrew as compared to the Islamic packet,” he said.
“It’s one thing to talk about secular, but they cross the line with Islam because they went from the secular aspect of it to the faith aspect of it,” he continued. “Let’s be honest, if they had come home with the Lord’s Prayer, we would have atheists suing all over the place.”
‘The true faith, Islam’
The influence of Islam in public schools has become a nationwide issue.
Parents are suing the San Diego Unified School District over an “anti-Islamophobia” initiative with the controversial Council on American-Islamic Relations, charging that teaching about Islam amounts to radical indoctrination.
In May 2017, in Groesbeck, Texas, a couple moved their sixth-grade daughter to a new school after they discovered her history homework assignment on Islam.
In late March 2017, as WND reported, a middle school in Chatham, New Jersey, was using a cartoon video to teach the Five Pillars of Islam to seventh-grade students, prompting two parents to obtain legal services to fight the school district, which has ignored their concerns.
WND also reported in March 2017 a high school in Frisco, Texas, set up an Islamic prayer room specifically for Muslim students to pray on campus during school hours. The same type of prayer rooms have been set up in high schools in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and other school districts.
In 2015, parents in Tennessee asked the governor, legislature and state education department to investigate pro-Islam bias in textbooks and other materials.
WND reported in 2012 ACT for America conducted an analysis of 38 textbooks used in the sixth through 12th grades in public schools and found that since the 1990s, discussions of Islam are taking up more and more pages, while the space devoted to Judaism and Christianity has simultaneously decreased.
In 2009, Gilbert T. Sewall, director of the American Textbook Council, a group that reviews history books, told Fox News the texts were “whitewashing” Islamic extremism and key subjects such as jihad, Islamic law and the status of women.
Also in 2009, WND reported the middle school textbook “History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond,” published by Teachers’ Curriculum Institute, said an Islamic “jihad” is an effort by Muslims to convince “others to take up worthy causes, such as funding medical research.”
In 2006, WND reported a school in Oregon taught Islam by having students study and learn Muslim prayers and dress as Muslims.
WND reported in 2003 a prominent Muslim leader who eventually was convicted on terror-related charges helped write the “Religious Expression in Public Schools” guidelines issued by President Bill Clinton.
In 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, seventh graders in Byron, California, were taught a three-week course on Islam that required them to learn 25 Islamic terms, 20 proverbs, Islam’s Five Pillars of Faith, 10 key Islamic prophets and disciples, recite from the Quran, wear a robe during class, adopt a Muslim name and stage their own “holy war” in a dice game.
Parents went to court to uphold their right to reject the class for their children, but a federal judge ruled against them, and in 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider their appeal.