December 18, 2015

A Virginia school district shut down today after parents raged about an assignment to copy the Muslim declaration of faith.

The school seemed to be trying to teach about Islam, and the copying was presented as an exercise in "the artistic complexity of calligraphy," but the text, in Arabic, was "There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God" — the shehada (or declaration of faith). I would observe that students were not required to declare a faith, only to copy a declaration of faith. That's like the difference between praying in school and staging a play in which a character says a prayer. That is, I don't think it violates the Establishment Clause to require students to copy the statement of faith as a calligraphy exercise as the students are taught not that Islam is the true religion but the history and substance of the religion of Islam.

There may be statutory law or state constitutional law that requires the school to exempt students whose own exercise of religion is burdened, and the potential for burden is a good reason for not structuring an assignment like this. In any case, the school might want to avoid assignments like this because it's not how the people in the community want their children to be taught. And in the end, the school acceded to parental pressure.

The linked article (in the NYT) says the Augusta County School District said it received phone calls and email that were "voluminous," "profane" and "“hateful." There was "no specific threat of harm to students, schools and school offices," but the cancellation was done — as the Times put it — "out of an abundance of caution."
Despite the outcry, the district said it would continue to educate students about the world’s religious diversity as required by state education guidelines but that “a different, nonreligious sample of Arabic calligraphy will be used in the future. As we have emphasized, no lesson was designed to promote a religious viewpoint or change any student’s religious belief,” it said.
They should have figured that out in advance, and it's distressing to see those who objected portrayed as hateful and potentially violent when they are attempting to protect their own religion. What if Muslims in the community objected to a lesson about Christianity that demanded that students read the Nicene Creed out loud? Would the New York Times portray the Muslims as potentially violent? I don't think it would. In fact, I think the NYT would portray the reading aloud of the Nicene Creed — "I believe in one God, the Father Almighty... And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God" — as a violation of the Establishment Clause.

The NYT quotes one of the parents as understanding the assignment to be an instruction "to denounce our Lord by copying this creed of Islam," which is "an abomination" to her family's faith and that the school had simply "cloaked in the form of multiculturalism." And therein lies the problem. How do you know what the school is really doing? And quite aside from what the school meant to do, there's the question of how it is perceived, which is an important part of Establishment Clause analysis.

105 comments:

David Begley said...

Not so subtle recruiting to Islam.

Islam is good. It is the Religion of Peace. Ignore the head chopping.

Gahrie said...

Where is the outcry from Muslims over this form of appropriation?

mccullough said...

So do they study Islam as interpreted by the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia or do they take a lowest common denominator approach that Islam is monotheistic and started in the 7th Century, etc.?

Compare and contrast the tenets of Islam as interpreted by the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia and the tenets of National Socialism? Under which system would you rather live? If you were Jewish, would you rather die by beheading or gassed?

James Pawlak said...

I suspect that the ACLU (Anti Christians Loathing Union) would go-to-court to stop the like exercise using: The "Our Father"; Or, "Hail Mary"; Or, "Hear O' Israel The Lord, The God, Is One".

sydney said...

Would you be as likely to think it didn't violate the Establishment Clause if it was the Lord's Prayer or Hail Mary or the Apostle's Creed?

Jane the Actuary said...

Sounds to me like the school district shut down to punish the parents who objected, not out of any actual safety concerns.

I do think it is insensitive, to say the least, to ask a child to do a copying exercise related to expression of a major tenant of a religion. Yes, no such child would have "become" Muslim in doing so, but it's still inappropriate, every bit as much as if the Middle Ages were taught by having kids play scriptorium with John 1.

sydney said...

Re: My previous comment. Never mind. I see that you did go on to make that exact point.

Leigh said...

But the district didn't accede to the parents' wishes at all. Instead of changing the "calligraphy" exercise (to, say, writing "I like broccoli" in Arabic) it shut down the entire school district, on the basis that any objection to this ridiculous exercise was some sort of threat to Muslims. It was punitive. "Object to our fabulous, inclusive, multicultural lessons and we will not only vilify you, we will close all the schools in the district because you are just ignorant, right-wing scary extremists."

This district-wide shut-down is obviously designed to shut down any further criticism of these BS pro-Muslim assignments.

Ace at Ace of Spades imagines the dialogue between the multi cultists and the parents here: http://acecomments.mu.nu/?post=360629

Dan Hossley said...

If it weren't for poor judgement, the officials at this school district would have no judgement at all.

Ann Althouse said...

"Would you be as likely to think it didn't violate the Establishment Clause if it was the Lord's Prayer or Hail Mary or the Apostle's Creed?"

If that's addressed at me, you didn't read the whole post.

Ann Althouse said...

And now I've read your other comment.

So... okay.

Leigh said...

P.S. -- The district's "official statement" and another nugget in the story: encouraging some of the girls to wear hijab a to learn about "modest dress." It's outrageous.

The school posted the following message on its website:

"Following parental objections to the World Geography curriculum and ensuing related media coverage, the school division began receiving voluminous phone calls and electronic mail locally and from outside the area. As a result of those communications, the Sheriff’s Office and the school division coordinated to increase police presence at Augusta County schools and to monitor those communications. The communications have significantly increased in volume today and based on concerns regarding the tone and content of those communications, Sheriff Fisher and Dr. Bond mutually decided schools and school offices will be closed on Friday, December 18, 2015. While there has been no specific threat of harm to students, schools and school offices will be closed Friday, December 18, 2015. All extra-curricular activities are likewise cancelled for tonight, Thursday, December 17, through the weekend. 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.

"Finally, the Augusta County School Board and Dr. Bond appreciate parents bringing concerns directly to our attention, and a constructive and respectful dialogue between school and community is always welcome. As we have emphasized, no lesson was designed to promote a religious viewpoint or change any student’s religious belief. Although students will continue to learn about world religions as required by the state Board of Education and the Commonwealth’s Standards of Learning, a different, non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy will be used in the future."

TV station WHSV called Augusta County School Board Chairman Nicholas Collins, who said he had no information to release about the closures.

Parents complained to the media that the students were denied a Bible in class and some female students were encouraged to wear a hijab to learn about the “modest dress adopted by many in the Islamic faith and were invited to try on a scarf as a part of an interactive lesson about the Islamic concept of modest dress.”

Fabi said...

So the school district compounds their 'calligraphy' error by being whiny little victims. Shocking!

Tom B said...

When dealing with a religion where the penalty for apostasy is death, it's best to steer clear of anything that could be even technically construed as a declaration of faith. Unless you really really mean it.

Todd said...

The easy part for this is to play "what if". Let us say that instead of the "example" the students were given they had instead been assigned to copy "Deus Abraham et Deus". As calligraphy, that would look quite beautiful! It is Latin for "The God of Abraham is the only God".

a) I can't imagine ANY public school teacher making that kind of "mistake".

b) All the of agnostic heads would explode.

c) All of the newspapers would run article demanding the "fundamentalist teacher" be fired.

Why does it seem that all of these "mistakes" always stick-poke "middle America" and Christians? Could it be because this group does not cut off your head when they get offended?

traditionalguy said...

The school is indoctrinating its students into a false Arab religion's Myths, as if it is teaching a needed knowledge. So what. I bet it also indoctrinates them into the false Gaia Religion's myths as if it is teaching them a science.

And if anyone complains, then the Empire strikes back by closing the school like it does the National Parks and Monuments as a revenge move if Congress dares to complain about deficit spending Bankrupting the Nation.

Bay Area Guy said...

Nobody in America wants to study Islam, fer chrissake.

What most Americans want, is to live in peace, and not have radical Islamic Jihadists behead people, shoot people and blow-up stuff.

It is an alien culture, incompatible with Western values.

So, when you have uniformly liberal public school boards doing this, they are simply making the long-standing, Leftist formulation -- anything that makes ordinary Americans squeamish, unsafe or uncomfortable, let's support it.

Good for these parents

dbp said...

"the cancellation was done — as the Times put it — "out of an abundance of caution." "

Telling if true: This means the school only did it to avoid violence by the bigoty bigots, not out of any concern for the for the sensitivity of the troglodytes they supposedly work for.

Shouting Thomas said...

Fag hag feminists in school administration are behind this. They want your sons to be pussies. They want your daughters to be fag hag feminist whores.

The triumph of Althouse's fag hag feminism is why our kids are being indoctrinated in every kind of idiot shit besides our Christian heritage. The enemy is right here. It's Althouse.

In the same way that Althouse and her fag hag feminist comrades captured the schools in order to indoctrinate kids in fag hag feminism, Christians must strategize to reclaim the schools so that they can return to indoctrinating kids in Christianity. Kids must be indoctrinated in a moral system.

Althouse isn't neutral in anything. Since she was a kid, she's been fighting to establish her fag hag feminist ideology as sole authority. She never rests with this shit. Her marriage is an ideological demonstration of proper sexual role inversion to a hair shirt wearing pussy. Her son is a vehicle for ideological demonstration of her fag hag ideology re gaydom.

Fight back, men. Take the schools back from Althouse and her fag hag feminist comrades. Including the University of Wisconsin Law School.

Don't buy the professor's bullshit about neutrality. That's a rhetorical device designed to discourage you from fighting relentlessly for political power and control, just like she did. Start figuring out how to throw Althouse and her fag hag feminist comrades out on their asses.

Jane the Actuary said...

Oh, and the hijab. It's not just a matter of a form of modest dress, or a cultural thing, like wearing a sari. For women who choose to wear it, it's a matter of religious belief, and, functionally, a form of profession of faith.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/janetheactuary/2015/12/what-does-it-mean-to-wear-the-hijab.html

exhelodrvr1 said...

THe biggest issue is the double standard. I don't think parents would mind a "comparative religions" class, if it weren't biased. But that's not what is happening.

gspencer said...

"Would the New York Times portray the Muslims as potentially violent?"

No need for anyone to "portray" Muslims as potentially violent. Daily headlines attest to the fact that Muslims, more than "potentially" violent, are actually violent.

And where would be any surprise since their holy (so-called) holy books mandates violence against those who are not Muslims, including those who, in the opinion of the actor, are not Muslim enough.

Will said...

"How do you know what the school is really doing?"

How about an educational system that is straight forward, transparent, with no ambiguity? I would only feel the need to question motives if things were already out whack...

Fernandinande said...

sydney said...Apostle's Creed
Leigh said...hijab

Didn't Apollo Creed have a high jab?

Amanda said...

I don't believe for a minute that the school was trying to convert any children to Islam. That sounds paranoid. When teaching World Religions, perhaps a stricter, narrower lesson plan, taking special care to not quote or copy any prayer or statement of faith should be taken. I guess the teaching of World Religions could be cut from the curriculum, but that would be a shame. Having said that, I don't want my children being indoctrinated into any religion, including Christianity, in a public school. I wonder if the outrage would've been so extreme if the lesson was one in which Hebrew script was being copied? The over the top hysteria over everything/anything Islamic is becoming an embarrassment to this country. I recall a news item a few months back about a boy being suspended because he brought a JRR Tolkien Lord of The Rings ring to school. The administration thought the script was Arabic in nature. Ridiculous over reactions, we Americans need to get a grip.

Shouting Thomas said...

Home school your kids or send them to Catholic school.

Those are the only ways possible that I can imagine to get your kids out of the grasp of Althouse and her feminist fag hag comrades in school administration and teaching.

Indoctrinate your kids in Christianity. Don't give them up to the fag hag feminists.

In the next generation, Althouse and her fag hag feminists comrades will be forcing your children to engage in public homosexual acts to demonstrate their "tolerance." If they aren't already.

It's amazing how the fag hag feminists ultimately have become allies of the Jihadis, isn't it?

MadisonMan said...

LaPorte told The News Leader that now her job is to get her students through Standards of Learning tests.

Teaching to the test requires calligraphy? I suppose it could.

This seems like a whole lot of over-reaction all the way around, but that's the New Normal.

Back when my kids were in school, it would never have crossed my mind to vent about a teacher publicly -- certainly not on Social Media. I'd call, or email, the teacher.

Why do people think the World Cares about what they think?

Steve in Toronto said...

Why couldn't the teacher just have assigned a poem by Rumi? "“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” " would have done nicely.

Richard Dolan said...

It is natural to think of this in terms of First Amendment freedoms, and how outlets like the NYT will never take those concerns seriously when they conflict with the 'progressive' position.

But in reading this news account, the first thing that came to my mind was how the teaching of German in American schools became controversial at the time of WWI, to say nothing of how various subjects became controversial during WW2 (albeit more selectively, since Italian was never disparaged to the extent that all things Japanese were). It's one of the downsides of viewing the world through the prism of being at war combined with a perception of the unassimilable otherness of the enemy, and all working mostly at the level of emotional response.

Carol said...

Religion is so much more charming when no one understands it.

Terry said...

Perhaps next, the school will have the children copy this as a "calligraphy exercise":

5:33
Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment

Ann Althouse said...

About the hijab...

It's a geography class, so they're putting on the culturally significant clothing of the others. Isn't this like putting on an Indian headdress -- cultural appropriation?

And if it's teaching modesty -- which might be a good idea -- that's slut shaming.

Ann Althouse said...

A lot of the problem is the idea that students need "hands on" projects.

If they stuck to book learning, we would not have this problem.

Terry said...

MadisonMan wrote:
"Why do people think the World Cares about what they think?"
Uh . . . maybe because they pay for the schools? Maybe because they love their kids (the DOE doesn't love them) and don't want the schools to mess them up?

Ann Althouse said...

"In the next generation, Althouse and her fag hag feminists comrades will be forcing your children to engage in public homosexual acts to demonstrate their "tolerance." If they aren't already."

Another hands on project.

dreams said...

"I would observe that students were not required to declare a faith, only to copy a declaration of faith. That's like the difference between praying in school and staging a play in which a character says a prayer. That is, I don't think it violates the Establishment Clause to require students to copy the statement of faith as a calligraphy exercise as the students are taught not that Islam is the true religion but the history and substance of the religion of Islam."

That is what you think but I believe that at least some of the students will think it is the favored religion but then the schools have been brainwashing students with liberal propaganda for over forty years.

Phil D said...

"encouraging some of the girls to wear hijab a to learn about "modest dress."

Wearing an hijab to learn about muslim "modesty" is a damnable lie of the muslims and their lefty quislings. And that because that so-called "modesty" (*) means a lot more then just simply wearing a piece of garment. It means amongst other things exclusion. In fact, it means everything islam's lefty quislings pretend to be against.


(*) "modesty" only for the muslim females. The muslim male can do whatever he can get away with with "infidel" women, see grooming gangs.

Rick said...

the district said it would continue to educate students about the world’s religious diversity as required by state education guidelines

In fact the district is educating students about the risks inherent in closed and unaccountable systems and how bureaucrats are simultaneously idiotic and condescending.

Nice job, the program is working.

Amanda said...

No the teaching and demonstration of various homosexual acts belongs in Sex Ed, not geography. ( sarc)

Where do you get some of these loony commenters from? He sounds deranged.

Amanda said...

It might be a good lesson to have girls wear the restrictive clothing of a Catholic nun in full habit to teach them how to be chaste.

SGT Ted said...

They shut the district down to distract from their own fuck-up by playing the victim and avoid accountability.

Do the kids also try on the modest clothing mandatory for women of fundamentalist Christian and Jewish Sects? If they don't, then it is obvious that they are pimping Islam using the "diversity" bullshit ruse.

mikee said...

Would writing, "The Pope is the Vicar of Christ on earth, and all heretics should be burned." make a difference in understanding how offensive this exercise was to religious families? One does not participate in the religious practices of other religions, beyond polite observation, if one takes one's own religion seriously.

Real American said...

Bullshit. Under Barnette, the school can't make kids say the Pledge of Allegiance and that wouldn't change if the school was just trying to teach civics and the students didn't have to actually pledge allegiance, but just mouth the words.

Cog said...

The shahada assignment was a more serious matter than assigning the Creed in a Chrisitanity lesson (which would be a great way to form an understanding of that belief system.) Rather, the shahada assignment compares to performing baptisms as an assignment.

As stated in WikiHOw, “all you need to do (to convert) is recite the Shahada, a short oral declaration of faith. Be aware that once you have said the Shahada you are committed to following Islam for life.”

Also noted is that the NYT reports they were "pushing" the girls in the class to put on hijabs for yearbook pictures. More and more this incident seems like an exercise in jihad.

Mark Nielsen said...

Althouse @ 11:42: "Another hands on project."

OK, at first I was really surprised and dismayed to see AA responding to a ST screed.

But that was funny, so OK.

SGT Ted said...

"Here, try on this Nazi hat to get a feel for the Militarism of WW2 Germany."

MaxedOutMama said...

Sorry, no public school would get away with a "calligraphy" exercise involving the Apostle's Creed:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN.


Sorry, I call bullshit on your assertion that this is not a violation of the Constitution. Saying the shahada is the way to convert to Islam. It is the ceremony.

No non-Christian person should be asked to write or say the Apostle's Creed in public school, and no non-Muslim person should be asked to write or say the shahada in a public school:
http://www.answeringmuslims.com/2012/10/what-is-shahada.html

Failure to respect what these words actually mean to Muslims is rather offensive in and of itself, but this is also a pretty classic religious/state entanglement.

MadisonMan said...

Uh . . . maybe because they pay for the schools? Maybe because they love their kids (the DOE doesn't love them) and don't want the schools to mess them up?

That's why you call the teacher, on the phone. Do I have to endure all the slings and arrows suffered by everyone, everywhere, when it can be resolved at the local level? Why magnify its importance?

I concede the parent could have tried to do this -- calling the teacher -- and received an unsatisfactory reply, but I think it's more likely the parent had the cell phone, built up a head of steam, and vented.

AllenS said...

Since calligraphy came from ancient China, why not have an exercise on a recipe for a nice egg roll?

Michael said...

Amanda

The Lord of the Rings story doesn't sound right. I believe the kid threatened to use magic to make another kid disappear. Nothing to do with Arabic, Islam, etc. Perhaps I have the wrong story. Could you provide a link to yours?

whswhs said...

Does Sharia law recognize the concept of "copying" in this sense? The popular accounts seem to say that if you say the shahada, you become a Muslim by doing so, and then of course if you don't adhere to it you are an apostate, with whatever consequences that entails. Does speaking the shahada on stage, or in a video, count, or does the relevant religious law recognize a concept of imitated faith that doesn't establish a commitment? And are the rules the same for spoken and written statements?

traditionalguy said...

The school sure wants peace. And they want us all to try out the same method of making peace with Islam that Montezuma's Aztec Empire tried out on Hernan Cortez and his religion's small band of missionaries.

Terry said...

That's why you call the teacher, on the phone.
You understand that that the teacher doesn't work for the parents, MM? This is public school. They are paid by the school district. Complaints should go to the school district.

Sebastian said...

"Would the New York Times portray the Muslims as potentially violent? I don't think it would" Well, aren't you the suspicious type. Why would anyone portray Muslims as "potentially" violent?

Michael said...

Althouse:

I am not sure you could even say the words "Nicene Creed" in a public school without having the wrath of the District down on you. Recite it? Not likely. Especially since only one in a hundred public school administrators or teachers would know what it was.

Jim S. said...

I would observe that students were not required to declare a faith, only to copy a declaration of faith. That's like the difference between praying in school and staging a play in which a character says a prayer.

The problem is that in Islam, saying or writing the shehada in Arabic is a declaration of faith. It makes you a Muslim whether you understand it or not. This is the same reason why Muslims memorize the Qur'an in Arabic phonetically, while understanding the content is secondary and disposable. Translations of the Qur'an aren't the Qur'an, only the Qur'an in Arabic is the Qur'an. Maybe we don't think that just copying some sounds without understanding them amounts to conversion to Islam and a renunciation of previous faiths, but Islam says it means precisely that.

So the school -- unintentionally of course -- made these students do something that, according to Islam, made them Muslims. And if they ever stray from this new "faith" they will be apostates and punishable by death according to a disturbingly high percentage of Muslims around the world. The school put a target on the backs of all these students. I'm waiting for a press release from ISIS saying that they accept all these students into their faith, and warn them that if they do not start keeping Islamic standards they will be hunted down.

readering said...

From what I've read, the assignment came from a single teacher in a single school, who has been giving the same assignment for years, without a fuss until this year, when everyone is going nuts over San Bernardino, which we somehow managed to avoid doing after September 11th. (I eschew Trump declarative sentences.) I think Mayor Garcetti shares some of the blame for this in light of his over-the-top reaction to an electronic threat to the LAUSD.

Since the purpose of the lesson was to impart the intricacy of Arabic calligraphy in an otherwise from iconoclastic religion, a better analogy might be a teacher who asked students copy an opening phrase the original of something like the Book of Kells, maybe John: In principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum. Doubt much apologetics would be imparted from that.

Since the offending phrase has been widely publicized in the press, maybe it's really all an insidious plot to brainwash all those irreligious news persons who can be unconsciously converted to monotheism by working with what looks like mere decoration to one who cannot read Arabic.

Basil said...

"A lot of the problem is the idea that students need "hands on" projects.

If they stuck to book learning, we would not have this problem."

Took some education courses back in the day, thought I might want to teach history, etc. Biggest problem for me was - lesson plans - little hands on one act plays with lots of making and passing around of stuff.

The idea of doing a lecture with some Socratic method thrown in was never even considered.

Decided to stay in the practice of law.

But would love to open a charter school with lots of book learning and lectures and even, gasp, memorization!!!!

Phil D said...

Amanda the new troll made a comparison with a Catholic nun.
There is this to be said about it;
- being a Catholic nun and wear the traditional habit is a "choice"
- Catholic women not in religious orders do not walk around like nuns
- Christian "chastity" is based on respect and self-respect
- muslim "chastity" is based on "undamaged property"

Todd said...

Ann Althouse said...
About the hijab...

It's a geography class, so they're putting on the culturally significant clothing of the others. Isn't this like putting on an Indian headdress -- cultural appropriation?

And if it's teaching modesty -- which might be a good idea -- that's slut shaming.

12/18/15, 11:39 AM


Um, "Islam" is not a "culture", it is a religion. Should the girls be "encouraged" to try on a nun's habit to get a feel for Rome?

Mom said...

My biggest concern is that Islam considers death a suitable punishment for those leaving the faith. While most Americans would not think copying the Shahada is even remotely enough to make a student a Muslim, many Muslims would disagree. The child studied the religion and then wrote out the Shahada. Many of the children will have mumbled it to themselves as they copied, as many children can't write without speaking the words. For a jihadist who is willing to slaughter a child simply for not being a Muslim, it would be even easier to justify the death of one who wrote or said the Shahada and then did not follow the teachings. If I had been a parent in that district, I would be very angry and demanding changes. Radical Islam is a terrible threat to our society and our lives. To teach and treat it as just another option in the happy rainbow of viable life choices, is child abuse straight up.

grackle said...

How do you know what the school is really doing?

I don’t know … it’s really hard. They seem to do this kind of thing, proselytizing Islam in the USA educational system, regularly, but what they’re REALLY doing is beyond me. I’m scratching my head in perplexity. Just … can’t … figure … it … out.

Phil D said...

"They shut the district down to distract from their own fuck-up by playing the victim and avoid accountability."

Personally I think they shut it down as a way to create a bogus "Christian terrorist threat" incident to be used in the future for the purpose of "moral relativism".

Jupiter said...

Amanda said...
"The over the top hysteria over everything/anything Islamic is becoming an embarrassment to this country."

Yeah, did you see how upset everyone got over that little display of piety in San Bernardino?

Amanda, if I were as dizzy as you are, I wouldn't climb any ladders. Hell, maybe you should go lie down now.

Peter said...


Schools seldom ask students to copy something over and over anymore, but when they did they cared a great deal about the moral import of the text that was being copied. Thus Kipling's "The Gods of the Copybook Headings" ( http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems_copybook.htm ).

How odd is it that someone would choose the Muslim statement of faith as an exemplar, suitable for use as a latter-day copybook heading?

Jupiter said...

Here is a charming little call to prayer that Muslim missionaries have been slipping through the mail slots of their neighbors' doors in Sweden;

"Translated, the notes said: 'In the name of Allah, the merciful, full of grace. You who are not believers will be decapitated in three days in your own house. We will bomb your rotten corpses afterwards.

'You must choose between these three choices: 1. Convert to Islam. 2. Pay the jizya [religious tax] for protection. 3. Or else, you will be decapitated.

'The police will not prevent or save you from you being murdered. (Death comes to all of you).'

Amanda, you got a mail slot?

Amanda said...

Regarding Jim S's comment.

Reciting the shehada makes one a Muslim, even if they don't believe a word of it? If say Beetlejuice three times will that truly make him appear? Recitations do not belief make. It takes belief in the tenets of the religion to become a member of any faith, no? The recitation of any creed doesn't make one that religion to the person reciting it without wanting to be part of that faith. Magical words mean nothing to those who don't believe in them. So, I wonder did the teacher write down all the names of the students who participated and sent them to ISIS? Just how will ISIS hunt these kids down?

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Ann Althouse said...

If they stuck to book learning, we would not have this problem.

Yep, but that's not going to happen. It would mean school teachers actually having to work and you know the union is not going to let that happen!

Doug said...

The linked article (in the NYT) says the Augusta County School District said it received phone calls and email that were "voluminous," "profane" and "“hateful."

The poor dears. Does the Augusta County School District have a recording on its phones that tells the caller,"calls may be recorded ...", and would they then have demonstrable proof of the voluminous, profane and vile calls?

rhhardin said...

Ryan Reynolds asking about Sandra Bullock's tattoo (The Proposal)

So what is it? Tribal ink?

Japanese calligraphy? Barbed wire?

chickelit said...

Althouse writes: That's like the difference between praying in school and staging a play in which a character says a prayer.

Annalogous to the difference between porn and prostitution.

jimbino said...

Where is the voice of the taxpayer in this? I thought the whole idea of education was to enable pupils and students to escape the narrow confines of their parent's ignorance. As a taxpayer, I don't feel I should contribute to maintenance of religious and superstitious shackles.

Terry said...

Perhaps the schools should make all the children -- including atheists, Muslims, and protestants -- recite the Nicene creed. You know, as a lesson. It's just words, after all.

Jupiter said...

Amanda said...
"Regarding Jim S's comment.

Reciting the shehada makes one a Muslim, even if they don't believe a word of it? If say Beetlejuice three times will that truly make him appear? Recitations do not belief make. It takes belief in the tenets of the religion to become a member of any faith, no?"

Amanda, we are not talking about the Islam that exists in your rather limited imagination. We are talking about the Islam that regularly puts people to death for the crime of apostasy. And yes, according to them, that makes you a Muslim. If you and your friends are successful in your plan to import lots of Muslims, you will find out all about what a fun bunch these savages are. Those who will not learn from the misfortunes of others must learn from their own.

Ann Althouse said...

"Bullshit. Under Barnette, the school can't make kids say the Pledge of Allegiance and that wouldn't change if the school was just trying to teach civics and the students didn't have to actually pledge allegiance, but just mouth the words."

Because it's a pledge.

A lesson that doesn't involve averring that you believe something is different, and schools require lessons all the time.

Jupiter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura said...

The cancellation was done out of "an abundance of caution." Too bad the same can't be said of the lesson plans. But as long as it's calligraphy, it must be appropriate: http://www.ucreative.com/articles/gorgeous-and-hilariously-offensive-calligraphy-by-seb-lester/.

"I would observe that students were not required to declare a faith, only to copy a declaration of faith."

Kinda like how we don't validate contracts signed by children. Because a declaration of faith in a child's handwriting could never be misconstrued as evidence, right?

Mark said...

students were not required to declare a faith, only to copy a declaration of faith. That's like the difference between praying in school and staging a play in which a character says a prayer. That is, I don't think it violates the Establishment Clause to require students to copy the statement of faith as a calligraphy exercise

Sorry to get to the conversation late, but all this totally misses the point. Moreover, it imposes a Western-centric view on what is a non-Western system.

Students were required to make the Islamic profession of faith. Period. That it was written, that it was written in a language that they did not understand, that the students may not have even known what they are saying -- all this does not matter from the Muslim perspective. From that perspective, merely making the profession makes one Muslim. That you understand it is not necessary. There are plenty of voluntary Muslims out there reciting the Koran in Arabic who have no idea exactly what they are saying because they do not speak that language. And once one makes the profession, thereby becoming Muslim, for one to then speak contrary to Islam is to make one, not an infidel, but an apostate.

Resort to legalisms like the "Establishment Clause" to excuse this are also beside the point. Teachers should not be compelling students to express things that they do not understand what they are saying, any more than people should be expected to sign contracts without reading them, particularly when what is said is a statement of faith, but not limited to those situations.

If a teacher told students instead to write in Arabic "Barack Obama is a f***ing a**hole," that would be wrong too even though the kids did not know that that is what they were saying.

Douglas said...

I'm trying to imagine a public school anywhere in the US instructing students to copy the Jewish declaration of faith - the sh'ma - in Hebrew. In English it reads, "Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One." Sorry, can't imagine it. Wonder what the difference is.

Paco Wové said...

Triggered by countless micro-aggressions, the school district retreats to its safe space.

Rhythm and Balls said...

I would observe that students were not required to declare a faith, only to copy a declaration of faith.

You're not the one who gets to decide that, though. Reciting the shahada makes you a de facto Muslim. As determined by the scholars of Islam. Whatever any lawyer wants to say about that is not relevant. It's a simple fact of Muslim theology.

The parents apparently know more than some people do.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Jim @12:57 is AFAIK entirely correct.

Shit. I took a course on this stuff while I was getting bored in college.

Americans simply need to stop making declarations about what Islam is or isn't based on their own wishful thinking and humanistic principles. The religion does have its own little codes and rules that apply to both Muslims and others and converts and they aren't simply what you presuppose them to be based on a Western or secular or Christian understanding of how life interacts with religion. It's. Not. The. Same.

The amount of commentary on Islamic theology by Westerners who have no understanding of it is astounding and alarming.

jeff said...

Beats me. I'm sure if the school had the kids write "Jesus Christ is my personal lord and Savior" in Latin, the same people defending this would totally defend that.

Sayyid said...

The worst thing about this story is that the shahada isn't even a very good example of Arabic writing to be teaching. Sure, there are lots of ornate, artsy, dressed up versions of it. But at it's heart, it uses precisely three out of the twenty-eight Arabic letters. It's just a mess of "l" and "a" with a pair of "h" thrown in.

If they really wanted to teach Arabic calligraphy as an art form, they should/could have looked up some random obscure Ottoman document. The Ottomans, if memory serves, at one point had so many obscure rules about where to place what flourish on their documents that they could determine counterfeits just from the writing. For an example, after less than two minutes of searching I found this diploma: http://international.loc.gov/service/amed/ascs/198/0001.jpg

There are still some religious references/mentions of God in it, but a quick glance at my own diploma (in Latin) has the same, really. And you can't tell me that wouldn't have made a far better and less controversial lesson plan than writing the Islamic profession of faith -- recital of which alone is enough to be considered a convert to the religion.

There's just so much stupid packed into this story, it's hard to know where to start.

The Cracker Emcee said...

Seriously, there was no one available to translate "see the quick brown fox" into Arabic. Anyone who doesn't recognize this for the PC preening that it is must be a moron.

As for closing the schools, public school teachers and administrators will grasp at any BS excuse to take a day off. They recently did an early dismissal here because it was windy. And, I shit you not, it wasn't very windy at all.

Terry said...

R&B wrote:
"Americans simply need to stop making declarations about what Islam is or isn't based on their own wishful thinking and humanistic principles."
I agree. There is a lot of ignorance contained in the statement "Islam needs a reformation."

Jim S. said...

Reciting the shehada makes one a Muslim, even if they don't believe a word of it? If say Beetlejuice three times will that truly make him appear? Recitations do not belief make. It takes belief in the tenets of the religion to become a member of any faith, no?

According to Western civilization, yes. That's because of the influence of Judaism and Christianity. You are applying Western standards to non-Western systems. Of course I agree: I don't see how just repeating some sounds you don't understand could possibly change your religious affiliation. But that's because I'm a Westerner and a Christian.

The recitation of any creed doesn't make one that religion to the person reciting it without wanting to be part of that faith. Magical words mean nothing to those who don't believe in them.

Well, that kind of begs the question. If Islam is true, then reciting the creed is precisely what makes one a member of the Islamic faith. I'm not a Muslim, so I disagree with this, but that's beside the point. Again, you're viewing religion from an explicitly Western (that is, Judeo-Christian) perspective. When you interpret a non-Western religion from a Western perspective, you open yourself up to the charge of arguing in a circle, not to mention cultural imperialism. (Not from me, of course, since I agree with you, but from members of the non-Western religion in question.)

So, I wonder did the teacher write down all the names of the students who participated and sent them to ISIS? Just how will ISIS hunt these kids down?

If you're asking me to speculate, I imagine they'd just target all of the students from the school.

Gahrie said...

But would love to open a charter school with lots of book learning and lectures and even, gasp, memorization!!!!

I'll work there.

JamesB.BKK said...

"... taught ... but the history and substance of the religion of Islam." Can't wait to see the block on the destruction of the classical Levant and North Africa, subjugation of India and enslavement of its peoples, and the subjugation of Siam, Java, Sumatra, Malaya, and Philippines and enslavement of its peoples.

Ken Mitchell said...

As a calligraphy assignment, I suggest the prayer "Ani Ma'amin", in Hebrew. That wouldn't offend anybody, would it?

Leigh said...

Reading with interest the comments re parental objections to the wisdom of this disguised "calligraphy" exercise.

Surprised to see so few comments about the school district's punitive, heavy-handed, in-your-face response: closing the entire district for a day, purportedly for the safety of Muslim students. This was by no means a "retreat," and it left parents in a no-notice, no-day-care lurch during the Christmas holiday crunch, on that Friday when every client, vendor, and relative rings your phone off the hook.

If the district truly thought its Muslim students were imperiled by whacko parents -- and clearly it does not -- closing all the schools for one day would hardly be a solution.

No, the district had a singular objective in mind: Dear Parents who find certain pro-Muslim "lessons" objectionable and speak up in opposition, hear our message loud and clear: complain, and we will make your life hell.

Goodness gracious. If the lefties weren't so consistent and reassuring about their overarching desire to have INCLUSIVE, TOLERANT, ALL-VIEWPOINTS-WELCOMED conversations, then words like "fascist" and "totalitarian" would come to mind, and this story would be most alarming. Phew!

Ken Mitchell said...

Terry said: "Perhaps the schools should make all the children -- including atheists, Muslims, and protestants -- recite the Nicene creed. You know, as a lesson. It's just words, after all."

Recite? No. Write, yes. In Latin. In calligraphy. Or better yet, the Hebrew "Ani Ma'amin". "I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah, and though he tarry, I still believe!"

JamesB.BKK said...

@ Bay Area Guy: Islamists just want to live in peace too, after they've obliterated the non-believers. Unless, like before, they discover the jizya revenue beats killing off all infidels.

JamesB.BKK said...

Totally inappropriate first and second actions by the school district. Another glaring reason why confiscating wealth to run state schools, which are and can only be crappy, should be discontinued, immediately. Establishment Clause is secondary to the particular issue.

Unknown said...

The school administrators are liars.

JamesB.BKK said...

@ Amanda: Please do some reading about those tens of millions slaughtered (in a much less populated world) and those allowed not to but to pay the jizya if they produced good revenue, but for these words. What's in the heart of the declarant has nothing to do with the organization. For some of the more liberal, mere life imprisonment plus caning for apostates may be preferred to death. Not sure of the actual polls of late.

Char Char Binks said...

"The school seemed to be trying to teach about Islam..." That's the problem right there. Instead of teaching SOMETHING useful, like the Arabic language, they only teach ABOUT it. I have no concern over the teacher supposedly promoting Islam, only that this calligraphy exercise is worthless, just like all the other time-wasting lessons that schools use to impart Jeopardy-level knowledge.

Donald Campbell said...

Perhaps the Augusta County School Board can host a 'Draw Muhammad' contest during Ramadan.
That would provide the Board an education on what is really phone calls and email that were "voluminous," "profane" and "“hateful."
Of course, the offended Muslims would not send email, they would just show up at the school house, machete in hand.

Dave in Tucson said...

> I would observe that students were not required to declare a faith, only to copy a declaration of faith

Yeah, right. Now imagine it was John 3:16 they were copying, or (as Instapundit says) the Nicene creed. The left doesn't care one whit about the establishment clause as long as it's not Christianity or Judaism that's the religion in question.

Bob R said...

For those making a big deal out of "shutting down the school district for an entire day," it's the day before "Winter" (nee Christmas) break. No learning was sacrificed.

The biggest problem here is people who don't take religion seriously teaching people who take religion seriously about other people who take religion seriously. It's all pen strokes to them. It's time to end the government monopoly on education.

Char Char Binks said...

Ann Althouse said...
"A lot of the problem is the idea that students need "hands on" projects.

If they stuck to book learning, we would not have this problem."

Hear, hear! But that would force students to do the hard work of actually learning, and teachers to do the hard work of teaching, and who wants that? Maybe academic school shouldn't be for everyone. I remember the countless, worthless nonsense we worked on in school; making dioramas, science projects, arts and crafts, singing folk songs, cursive handwriting practice, playing dodgeball... none of it helped me one bit.

"Discc aid discede ; tertia pars manet, ccddi" which I'm told means roughly "Learn, leave, or be flogged." (I won't pretend I actually know Latin) apparently used to be a motto in some schools. That seems harsh, but maybe it's preferable to what happens now. At least the student had the option of leaving to avoid the flogging (unless that part of the motto didn't apply).

Ken Kennedy said...

For my "calligraphy" lesson, students will copy the phrase "abortion is murder." Will the NY Times and its readers be ok with that?

I'm not opposed to abortion - only double standards.

Moneyrunner said...

Bob R says something profound:
"The biggest problem here is people who don't take religion seriously teaching people who take religion seriously about other people who take religion seriously. It's all pen strokes to them. It's time to end the government monopoly on education."

This is why Ann, Amanda, everyone in the press and every Democrat doesn’t get it. First, they don’t take religions seriously. Would anyone in that group die or kill for their faith? To ask the question is to answer it. They view all religions as important as flavors of ice cream. Today I like chocolate and tomorrow vanilla and it’s all a matter of taste. They are incapable of understanding that Islam is not something that’s practiced one day a week. The really “smart” may even know that Muslims pray five times a day. But they don’t know what makes a Muslim. They may know that the real head of Iran is a Muslim cleric but don’t really understand why.

This far the ignorance and cultural arrogance of Ann, Amanda and the rest of secular America has not impacted their lives all that much. It’s exhibited in the inevitable media reactions following some kind of attack - fear of the backlash by Americans against Muslims that never comes. It’s funny in a way. Drawing cartoons of Mohammad is followed by riots throughout the world with dozens killed. The press won’t publish the cartoons. Murder 14 Americans in San Bernardino and Democrats go to a mosque to show their solidarity.

Moneyrunner said...

Given that modern American educational institutions are so aggressively secular it may be a good idea to actually teach basic Christian beliefs in a comparative religion class. The Nicene Creed would be the lesson plan. It may be the only exposure many people get to Christianity.

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

rastajenk said...

I wonder if that school district still teaches cursive writing in the lower grades.