A Virginia school district is reportedly defending an assignment in which public school students were instructed to practice calligraphy by reproducing the shahada — the First Pillar of Islam — which states, "There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah."
Angry parents claim that students at Riverheads High School in Augusta County–Greenville, Virginia, weren't given the translation of the calligraphy assignment, which was in Arabic and was handed out during a world geography class.
But officials with Augusta County Public Schools have said that there was no attempt to indoctrinate children, as some critics have charged.
Consider parent Kimberly Herndon, who organized a forum on Monday at Good News Ministries church in Greenville, Virginia, that saw around 100 people show up to discuss the issue. Herndon unleashed a strong rebuke against the school assignment, the News Leader reported.
"That's why we need to join together. If my truth can not be spoken in schools, I don't want false doctrine spoken in schools. That's what keeps it even across the board," she said, taking specific aim at the teacher. "She gave up the Lord's time. She gave it up and gave it to Muhammad."
Others agreed that similar assignments surrounding the Bible would have not been permitted, and questioned why a Muslim-themed assignment was allowed. The district, though, has attempted to temper these criticisms.
"Neither these lessons, nor any other lesson in the world geography course, are an attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion, or a request for students to renounce their own faith or profess any belief," the district told conservative commentator Todd Starnes.
Officials continued, "The statement presented as an example of the calligraphy was not translated for students, nor were students asked to translate it, recite it or otherwise adopt or pronounce it as a personal belief."
Female students were also invited to try on a headscarf during a discussion about the modest garbs that Muslim women often wear — another point of contention that frustrated parents, according to Starnes.
And students were reportedly also shown copies of the Koran as well, though the News Leader reported that the assignment is within acceptable standards for the Virginia Standards of Learning when it comes to exploring monotheistic religions.
The situation first made headlines after some students refused to take part in the assignment and parents subsequently caught wind of it. Some families are reportedly so angry that they will not permit their kids to complete the course with the teacher in question.
(H/T: Todd Starnes)
Editor's Note: The story has been changed to reflect the fact that, despite having a Staunton mailing address, Riverheads High School is in Augusta County–Greenville, Virginia and is part of the affiliated school district.