A Virginia school was closed down today after a teacher had students write a pledge to Allah and “invited” them to try on a hijab and a headscarf. Many parents and members of the Riverheads High School and the Augusta County School District community became irate over the assignment and what they feel is an act of Islamic indoctrination.
Although no specific threat against the Augusta County school appears to have occurred, the district said it received a multitude of very angry phone calls and emails from residents about the alleged Islamic indoctrination and the overall tone of the Shahada pledge to Allah calligraphy assignment.
The Riverheads High School geography gave the Arabic assignment to Staunton, Virginia, area students by instructing them to attempt to write an Islamic phrase printed on a sheet of paper.
The Muslim faith statement reportedly read, “There is no God but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”
— CNN (@CNN) December 18, 2015
A statement from the Riverheads High School and the Augusta County School District said that administrators were worried about the posted “tone and content” of the communications they received after the Allah calligraphy assignment became known to parents. Neither district Superintendent Eric Bond nor members of the school board answered questions about whether or not they found the Muslim pledge appropriate for the public school classroom, MSN reports.
The Augusta County School District is located about 150 miles from Washington, D.C. in the Shenandoah Valley near Charlottesville. The name of the geography teacher who issued the assignment has not been released to the public. It is currently unclear if any of the angry phone calls and emails threatened violence against the female teacher or school officials. The incident occurred during a course for ninth-grade students.
“We regret having to take this action, but we are doing so based on the recommendations of law enforcement and the Augusta County School Board out of an abundance of caution,” Virginia school statement continued.
— WTVR CBS 6 Richmond (@CBS6) December 18, 2015
The Augusta County School District maintains that the Riverheads High School geography teacher did not require the students to translate the Allah pledge of allegiance into English or mandate that they recite the Islamic faith statement.
“She [the teacher] told us the paper meant faith so we didn’t think anything of it,” student Laurel Truxell told local reporters.
After the Riverheads High School students learned that they had just written the Shahada pledge in calligraphy, some became upset and told their parents about the assignment when they got home.
“A lot of people got really upset and I refused to do the paper,” Truxell added. “When they asked me to dress up, I said no and the aide said okay, well the teacher pushed and pushed and pushed so I did it, and when she took a picture, I asked for it not to be in the yearbook and she said it was, so that’s when my parents called the school.”
Parents’ concerns about Islamic indoctrination went viral after a photo of the Allah calligraphy assignment was posted to Facebook. All of the national media attention to the Riverheads High School geography class prompted a community meeting followed by an onslaught of phone calls and emails to August County School District officials.
During an interview with NBC 29 WVIR News, Kimberly Herndon, the parent who posted the Allah pledge assignment to Facebook, said, “These children were deceived when they were told it was calligraphy. This is not calligraphy, this is a language.”
Although parents expressed anger over their children being presented with a head scarf and hijab to try on, Augusta County school officials said that the assignment was not “designed to promote a religious viewpoint or change any student’s religious belief.”
Virginia school administrators told concerned parents that teaching students about world religions are mandated by state academic standards. In the future, students at Riverheads High School will not be introduced to calligraphy by writing a sample phrase that has anything to do with Islam, August County School District officials added.
What do you think about the pledge to Allah calligraphy assignment? Should parents of students in the August County School District have been concerned about Islamic indoctrination?
[Image via Shutterstock.com]