Virginia Schools Shut Over Arabic Assignment (USA)

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Above: Virginia Schools Shut Over Arabic Assignment

Authorities in Virginia have closed schools on Friday after a high school geography assignment triggered allegations that students were being indoctrinated into Islam.

In a statement on the Augusta County School District website, officials said the decision to shut 23 schools was made because of the “tone and content” of emails and phone calls made by parents.

The statement read: “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 these communications, the Sheriff’s Office and the school division co-ordinated 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.”

A geography teacher at Riverheads High in Staunton, Virginia, gave students an assignment to try calligraphy by copying a statement in Arabic, the Staunton News Leader reported.

That was the shahada, or Muslim statement of faith, which reads: “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

Parents were angered over the assignment, with posts on Facebook accusing the school of religious indoctrination.

In the statement, school officials insisted that “no lesson was designed to promote a religious viewpoint or change any student’s religious belief”.

It added that students would continue to learn about world religions as required by state academic standards, but would practise calligraphy using a different example.