In an attempt to teach students about the art of calligraphy, a Virginia teacher is under fire for having her students try and replicate Arabic calligraphy. While the specific phrase was an Islamic statement of faith, and the lesson said so, students weren’t given a translation at all, they did not have to pronounce or recite it, and the focus of the lesson was on the complexity of the calligraphy. This is in line with the Virginia Board of Education’s standards.
Of course, it prompted anti-Muslim backlash fierce enough that all Augusta District schools will be closed on Dec. 18. One parent called it “indoctrination,” which is impossible given that they had no idea what the calligraphy actually said. Kimberly Herndon, who organized a parent protest against this lesson, said:
She gave up the Lord’s time. She gave it up and gave it to Mohammed.
Considering that this is a public school, their time is not “the Lord’s time,” as some of these members of the religious right claim. However, when it comes to anything having even the remotest thing to do with Islam in the classroom, people will always be up in arms.
It’s a world geography class, and they’ve studied religions other than Islam, including Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism. However, because of growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S., it’s entirely likely that there would have been at least an initial backlash no matter what the phrase said.
Eric Bond, the superintendent of Augusta Public Schools, said in a statement:
The students were presented with the statement to demonstrate the complex artistry of the written language used in the Middle East, and were asked to attempt to copy it in order to give the students an idea of the artistic complexity of the calligraphy.
Fox News’ Todd Starnes threw a livid fit about this. He’s accusing the teacher and the district of covering up an attempt at Islamic indoctrination, more or less. He’s incredulous that the district is standing behind their teacher, as though he thinks they’re idiotic for not being able to see the problem.
The problem is not the assignment. The problem is the religious right, people like Todd Starnes and others at Fox News, and right-wing politicians, all of whom are getting their rocks off on stoking anti-Islamic fears. It’s insane that something like this would prompt the closing of an entire public school district, but that’s what we get in today’s environment. The “us versus them” mentality of these dipwads is going to get us into some serious trouble at some point.
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