Tracing the shahada

Dunno if you’ve heard this story, which has actually shut a school district in Virginia - the long and short of it is that during a geography lessons in high school one of the assignments was to trace the shahada written in Arabic calligraphy, the Muslim testimony of faith which translates as “There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God”

It’s caused more stink than a bomb in a septic tank - I know we’ve got a lot of parents and a lot of secularists, if your child came home and you found that this was one of the assignments, how would you react?

This is totally absurd. I’m embarrassed for other parents in my state.

In a country with more enlightened views about religion, it wouldn’t be a big deal, and it’s not as though any child is going to convert because of a tracing assignment. But this is the US and it would (rightly) be a big deal if the kids were writing out Christian catechisms so I can understand why so many people find this objectionable.

Current thread.
Also, it was a world religions class.

I’m an atheist and generally pretty cool about teaching about world religions in schools, but I would be annoyed it my kids were asked to write out a profession of faith. I don’t think there was proselytizing going on in this case, but if this sort of exercise is allowed, then it opens the door for Christian teachers to do something similar with Christian homilies or prayers.

Ditto, so I picked parent/disapprove.

Would you be equally annoyed if they were asked to trace the Sh’ma?

I’m also an atheist. Still, I see nothing wrong with trying to teach kids the core tenets of various religions. What better way to explain these concepts than using their own words and written form?

I was just talking about this with a coworker.

I took Arabic for three years in high school. Unfortunately I can only remember a few things from the experience, but one thing that stuck with me is how often Allah is mentioned in basic greetings and expressions.

But I think it was poor judgment to choose that particular expression. Just like it’s poor judgment to drop the word “niggardly” in a 4th grade classroom. In a vaccuum, there’s nothing wrong with either of these, but we don’t live in a vaccuum. Perhaps it is a shame we live in such a sensitive society nowadays, but it’s the reality. A thesarus is a teacher’s best friend.

I think “peace be unto you” (asalamalaykum) would have been a much better expression to use in this exercise.

I don’t have any problem with the assignment, assuming it was properly contextualized by the teacher as an example of traditional calligraphy and with appropriate caveats that this was not meant as an endorsement of Islam. Especially if the teacher is not himself or herself a Muslim, I don’t see any establishment clause-related problems.

That said, I could see how a religious parent or child might object. Not sure that’s rational, but definitely predictable, which makes it not an ideal assignment.

Well, no, but then my kids are Jewish. :smiley:

I wouldn’t approve of non-Jewish kids being asked to do it though.

We shouldn’t take such professions lightly. There is a performativeaspect to many things we say. I wouldn’t approve of my child being asked to write “I am a liar and a thief” or “George W. Bush was an American hero” as part of a penmanship exercise either.

I see some potential value if it’s contributing to the childrens’ understanding of the religion as part of the class, but I also feel like they might be able to learn about the religion without having to “practice” any part of it and without being asked to reproduce something that is a statement of faith they may not believe in. Heck, even if they practiced the individual words and were not asked to make it a complete sentence. It’s not like we ask students to learn about Christianity by writing out “Jesus is my personal Lord and savior” or some such.

If I was a prent, sending the above paragraph as an e-mail to the teacher/principal would be about the extent of my involvement as a parent. Angry threats? Shutting down the school? Please. Get a grip, folks.

I don’t mean to badger you, but since the meaning of both the Sh’ma and the Shahada is essentially the same, aren’t you accepting the former because it’s simply more familiar to you?

What do religious scholars do to avoid being compromised by study of professions of religions they do not practice of believe?

I think we must not lose sight of context.

Ha, I don’t browse the BBQ Pit that often but that title did give us a good laugh, thanks for the link.

I got the geography lesson from the Beeb, this link has it from the horse’s mouth; The Superintendent for Augusta County Schools issued a statement saying, “neither these lessons, nor any other lesson in the world geography course, are an attempt at indoctrination”, so I dunno if world religions is just a subset of world geography in that curriculum or what.

IME, it’s unusual for a public school in the US to have comparative religion courses.

And you can see why… :slight_smile:

Seriously though, it’s been tought in my kids’ public high school for a number of years. It’s one of the more popular electives and it’s coupled with comparative phylosophy in the second half of the year. My son is currently taking the class and we’ve had some interesting conversations about it at the dinner table.

All the cites I read say it was a World Geography course.

When I was in high school our sociology class included a project where we broke into groups and studied a different religion then did a presentation. My group chose Wicca and we presented our topic with an actual magic circle, with a pentagram taped on the floor and magic spells.

Everyone learned a lot from the project and we all had a nice time and no one burst in to flames.

I agree with the Facebook commenter that said “how do these terrified people leave their houses every day?”

Did the teacher force all the other students to invoke a magic spell?

It really depends in the context. If there was a quiz, and the question was, “what is the core statement of belief of Islam?”, and the correct answer was to write out that phrase (in English) I don’t think it would bother me. Nor would it bother me if the quiz asked about Christian doctrine and the student was supposed to say something about accepting Christ as a personal savior.

As a calligraphy quiz, I think the subject was poorly chosen. Not, “I will make physical threats against the school” poorly, but “I’ll tell my kids at the supper table that the teacher made a stupid choice” poorly. Surely there are less polarizing statements that look pretty in Arabic, that would have been better choices for this task.

I ask again, would people have the same reaction to students being asked to trace or write: “Hear! O Israel, the Lord is Our God, the Lord is One”, in hebrew, in the same context of a class on world religion studies?