The shahada (Photo: Flickr/Islamic Pictures/https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/)
A West Virginia parent is upset after his daughter was asked to write the shahada, the Islamic declaration of faith, as part of “calligraphy practice” in her world religion class.
Rich Penkoski objected to the assignment that his seventh-grade daughter Brielle was given, saying the religious nature of the assignment was inconsistent with what students were asked to do while studying other religions.
“I saw the assignment of writing the Shahada in Arabic. Their excuse was calligraphy,” said Penkoski, speaking to The Christian Post. “First of all, calligraphy was invented in China 3,000 years prior to Muhammad. The fact that they were trying to get my daughter to write that disturbed me.'”
Upon complaining to the school, Penkoski was told the assignment was optional, a fact disputed by his daughter. Penkoski said his daughter reported, “’No, that is not what was said.’ What was said was, ‘Do the assignment and if you want to learn more about the Quran, ask your parents’.”
Brielle said the unit about Christianity, for example, stuck to historical instruction, not recitation or writing of texts considered religious, for example, the Lord’s Prayer.
“We did [the unit on Christianity] over a week and two days. We watched two different videos. We didn’t finish them,” said Brielle. “They taught a little bit about Moses and the Ten Commandments, Peter and Paul. We learned about the Israelites and how they are being persecuted by the Romans. We were told about the Jews and told a little bit about Jesus.”
Penkoski shared with the press the educational packets given to students for the units on Christianity and Judaism. “Notice no Bible verses, no reciting the Ten Commandments or the Lord’s Prayer,” he said, adding that the Islam packet contained passages from the Quran.
“They cross the line with Islam because they went from the secular aspect of it to the faith aspect of it,” he continued. “Let’s be honest, if they had come home with the Lord’s Prayer, we would have atheists suing all over the place.”
The West Virginia school is not the first to ask its students to write the shahada. In 2015, a number of parents protested to a school district in Virginia about a similar calligraphy assignment. The incident generated so much protest, both in and out of the state, that the school closed down for two days as a precaution based on the recommendation of police. No threats were actually received, however.
The latest incident in West Virginia is part of a growing discomfort by parents as to how Islam is taught in U.S. schools.