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Anti-Muslim Bigotry

In Friendswood, TX, Islam 101 is less than welcome -Ruth Nasrullah

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fjh1.gifWhen I was growing up, and when my daughter was coming up through the public school system, I don’t remember parental consent being required for school assemblies and presentations (with the exception of sex education, where parents were even allowed to keep their children out of the class). Apparently in the Friendswood, TX school district things are different, as the district has a policy requiring parents to be notified of any assembly before it is given, so they have the option to keep their children out. This policy, unfortunately, was fodder for outcry among parents of Friendswood Junior High’s students who were provided a presentation on “Islam 101” by representatives of CAIR-Houston. Unsurprisingly, local talk radio hosts encouraged parents to express their dismay. The fact is that CAIR-Houston scheduled the talk in response to an alleged hate crime against a Muslim student, and the talk was very basic. You can see the PowerPoint here.

Several days following the presentation, as the debate continued to rage, Trish Hanks, the Friendswood ISD superintendent, sent students’ parents a letter stating that she had authorized the presentation for administrative staff but not for students. She claimed that school principal Robin Lowe had acted “hastily” and without authorization. Ultimately Lowe was “reassigned” from her position as principal. (Interestingly, Ms. Hanks’ letter closes with this statement: “Friendswood is a faith-based community and founded on these principles. The school district has always and will continue to honor that heritage.” Friendswood, like Philadelphia, was founded by Quakers, but I doubt that is what Ms. Hanks was referring to.)

Some people claim outrage because the presentation was made without parental “consent.” Some claim outrage over inequity they perceive between the rights of Muslims and other faith practitioners to discuss their faith in publicly-funded schools, as demonstrated by the comment of a reader on my Chronicle blog:

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The problem is no other religions are allowed to make “presentations” in public schools, but at risk of offending Muslims, we give them a pass. Everyone else gets the “separation of church and state” speech, but we all know that only applies to the Christian religion now. You can make such presentations anywhere. If the school wants to have some after school thing where students and parents alike are invited to attend, great, but the same opportunity better be given to all faiths.

In my opinion, both arguments fail to address the key issue – context. The uproar occurred because the presentation was about Islam and prompted by an incident involving a Muslim student. There is a big difference between being a member of a minority religion and a follower of the majority religion or no religion at all. In this country, and especially in Houston, there is a big difference between the personal experience of a Christian and the personal experience of a Muslim. When Christian students are on no-fly lists, when Christianity is reviled as a scourge of evil on the planet, and when the number of hate crimes against Christians is on the rise, an assembly about the basics of Christianity may well be in order. In the meantime I think the citizens of Friendswood need to accept that the Muslim population in this country is growing and they are going to have to get used to us one way or another. Allowing their children the opportunity to learn about us is just a first step.

Action alert: Tarek Hussein, president of CAIR-Houston, is encouraging Muslims to write to the editorial staff of the Houston Chronicle praising this fair and balanced column by Rick Casey which ran in Saturday’s edition. Letters to the editor can go to viewpoints@chron.com and per the Chronicle’s instructions should include name, address and day and evening phone numbers for verification purposes only. Rick Casey’s e-mail is rick.casey@chron.com .

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25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Hassan

    June 10, 2008 at 8:03 AM

    I think there are more ISDs than Friendswood ISD that require parental consent on many things. And it has benefited muslims a lot (like opting out many things that parents consider un-islamic). So Friendswood principal indeed had a lapse of judgment there, giving radio talk shows talking points.

  2. Zee 'G'

    June 10, 2008 at 8:13 AM

    Assalam u Alaikum,

    The PP link above had some interesting comments and i am pretty sure they all would have gone through the PP presentation and learn something about Islam :). — Allah (swt) works in mysterious ways!
    — way to go CAIR!!.

    Zee ‘G’

  3. anon

    June 10, 2008 at 9:59 AM

    This whole thing is ridiculous. Including the assembly. If students want to learn about religions they can take a world religions course, which was offered at my public HS. But to have an assembly to teach people about one religion, (ie: Islam) when that would never have been allowed for any other religion is moronic and imho violates separation of church and state. Parents should have been notified about this and I pretty much agree with what Hassan said.

    And who cares if a muslim student was attacked. Are we now going to start having assemblies for every alleged hate crime? If highschool gays are attacked (and it did happen recently, I think the guy was sexually assaulted) are we now going to start having assemblies without notifiying parents on homosexuality. You all would be the first to call in to radio stations and what not moaning and complaining about how your rights were violated. Or how about Judaism if a jewish guy is attacked? The logic behind this assembly was completely stupid

  4. whawha

    June 10, 2008 at 10:31 AM

    As Salaam Alaikum,
    I wouldn’t want my kid to attend any assembly about any religion unless it was with my consent, even if it was on Islam presented by other Muslims. The reason is just because a Muslim is talkign about Islam does not mean that they are talking about it correctly. I have been to many Muslim-presented presentations about Islam and have disagreed with the majority of what they have said.

    I rathar teach my kid about Islam and othe world religions, or have them look it up themselves. Now, I don’t mind a very simple text book paragraph about some of the major world religions— and what their followers believe. Or even presented CLASSROOM projects made by other students, who are likely to report on religions that they themselves do not follow. But assemblies? no, no.

  5. Dawud Israel

    June 10, 2008 at 1:15 PM

    I gave a talk once in highschool to a bunch of students. It seemed unlikely we would ever get it but eventually we did for 2 reasons:

    1) The arrest of the Toronto18
    2) A local brother’s garage was torched down
    3) Muslim’s were in the spotlight in school and people needed to learn

    What is school for except learning?

    In an educational institution it is vital students learn about the world around them–Islam comes into that sphere. The presentation was regarding Islamophobia and so my approach was on the basics of Islam. I even had permission from the teacher (die-hard Christian) to ask them if they would like to accept Islam, since it is something that I believed I am obligated to do in this scenario.

    How do you think it went? They loved it. It was grass-roots since I was a student so they could relate to me and understood something about their fellow Muslim students they always wondered about…

    No permission or forms.

    Part of growing up is to be able to make your own decisions and learn for yourself–parents don’t need to run and try and protect children all the time and who is a parent to know what to teach their children? If they knew it, they wouldn’t send them to a teacher. The logic is totally flawed and is based on skewing the balanced relationship between teachers and parents. It seems these parents need to learn about Islam.

    So you don’t want to learn about Islam from school–where do you expect to learn it instead?
    The library? Pssshh. The only people you see at libraries are immigrants
    The news? Yeah, that was the reason you got interested in learning Islam
    The mosque? No, no you are not THAT interested

    Oh, I know! Your church pastor who is going to tell you it’s an evil religion. Boingo!

    Stupid Americans–gotta love ’em. Or not.

  6. DrM

    June 10, 2008 at 2:03 PM

    “Who cares if a Muslim is attacked?” What kind of an idiot are you, anon? I care, and so do a lot of other people. Why is it all you supporters of homosexuality(not a religion) and zionism have a hissy fit anytime a Muslim presents his own religion?

  7. Ruth Nasrullah

    June 10, 2008 at 2:21 PM

    Salaamu alaikum.

    I remain dumbfounded at the idea that parental consent being required to learn about something new. The only reason it’s an issue is because it was about Islam; I’m thoroughly convinced of that. As I wrote on my Houston Chronicle blog, I can perhaps be persuaded on the “teaching religion in public schools” issue, but for parents to expect the ability to keep their kids from learning is just bizarre. I believe people are clinging to that idea as a way of justifying their closemindedness.

    I’ve tried to put myself in a Friendswood Junior High parent’s place and I just can’t imagine being upset enough to warrant a principal being fired.

  8. Alexandra Lynch

    June 10, 2008 at 3:54 PM

    As a parent who practices a minority religion, I think a lot depends on their parent’s view of faith. Mine says that everyone has to come into a relationship with God at their own speed and pace, that all a believer can do is say, “This is what I believe” and leave it at that, because I don’t have the One True Way…to use an analogy, my style of hiking boot, ideal for someone with high arches and a narrow heel, will not be the best boot for everyone wanting to hike, because everyone’s foot is different. So I am not afraid of letting my sons go to a presentation on any religion that is basically “This is who we are, this is what we do”. Some people are very afraid of anything outside a little tiny box. So their children even learning accurate, basic facts about another religion can, in their opinion, cause the child to lose their religious path. Unfortunately, there are many Christians in the US who have a very fear-based approach to their religion, and as part of this lie about everything that isn’t within their little box.

    I would have serious personal reservations about anyone telling children, who are not as sophisticated or as experienced as adults are regarding sales pitches, not only “this is what we are, this is what we do” but also “and this is why if you don’t do it our exact way you are wrong.” And I wouldn’t care whether the people doing the telling were Muslim or Christian. Probably my preference would be to attend the presentation with them so that we could discuss it afterwards.

  9. Jackie

    June 10, 2008 at 5:40 PM

    I’m really saddened at how close minded these people are being. They hear Muslim and they get all freaked out. Everytime in the history of anything when there was an incident in school or work involving a hate crime, sexual harrassment, etc. everyone got a presentation or something- why should this be different? I remember getting lectures in school about peace love and harmony? I think they should have had that lecture, and based on some comments made on topix.com, had their butts beat by their parents.

  10. anon

    June 10, 2008 at 5:52 PM

    “Who cares if a Muslim is attacked?”

    DrM I didn’t mean in it callous way. Obviously I care if anyone is attacked. But with regards to having an assembly on the religion of the victim, than no it shouldn’t matter and as I said who cares if the victim was muslim, hindu, buddhist, or jewish. Are people going to start having assemblies now for every student in the school that belongs to a minority ideology or lifestyle? No. I find it stupid and don’t think it should have happened.
    And who said anything about zionism. I mentioned Judaism. Learn how to read

  11. anon

    June 10, 2008 at 5:56 PM

    As to the homosexuality not being a religion, again, who cares. Muslims continuously babble on about how Islam is “a way of life”. Is homosexuality, not also “a way of life” If you want to have assemblies without notification on one “way of life” than you should allow it on the other

  12. DrM

    June 11, 2008 at 4:45 PM

    “You didn’t mean it in a callous way,” anon? Right. Why would anyone get that idea? You don’t care if a Muslim is attacked but seem to protest Muslims make a presentation of their own faith to educate in a proactive manner to prevent such incidents from happening again. What a hypocritical idiot.
    Oh, and homosexuality is not a way of life, unless you consider stds a badge of honor.

  13. Alfonso

    June 11, 2008 at 5:11 PM

    ruth nasrullah wrote:

    When Christian students are on no-fly lists, when Christianity is reviled as a scourge of evil on the planet, and when the number of hate crimes against Christians is on the rise, an assembly about the basics of Christianity may well be in order. In the meantime I think the citizens of Friendswood need to accept that the Muslim population in this country is growing and they are going to have to get used to us one way or another. Allowing their children the opportunity to learn about us is just a first step.

    Allow me to retort: when muslims stop crashing airplanes into buildings, when muslims stop beheading westerners (and videotaping it), when muslims stop harvesting and selling hasheesh to benefit terrorist organizations, when muslim women are afforded the same rights as men and when muslims cease committing acts of terrorism all over the planet then the citizens of Friendswood and other towns might be willing to accept the muslim population growing. But lets be clear, neither I nor anybody I know “needs” to accept anything, and unfortunately for all of us, our children learn enough about muslims every time we turn on the news. Before you madly punch out an angry response on your keyboard about how I am generalizing and stereotyping, please know that your religion is defining itself by the radicals who practice it. Until you, as a group, can educate the huddled third world masses that blindly follow your extremists, mainly because of a less than 20% literacy rate, that violence is not the answer, the persecution of and distaste for your religion will likely not end. That is, unless you are ok with the violence that is being carried out. You have a responsibility, not to educate Christian children about Islam, but to educate your own brethren about peace.

  14. Ruth Nasrullah

    June 11, 2008 at 5:26 PM

    Thanks for your comments, Alfonso. I’m always saddened by the conflation of evils committed overseas with the lives of “orindary” Muslims here in the US. I believe that your comments demonstrate exactly why we Muslims have a responsibility not to follow your and others’ demands that we speak on behalf of terrorists, but to continuously educate non-Muslims about our religion. I disagree with your assessment that my religion is defining itself by radicals. Rather, you are allowing the radicals to frame your perception of me and my fellow American Muslims. Unfortunately, you are also allowing the media to define “Muslim” for your children – which is why, I’ll say again, we need to educate children as well.

    Islam is the religion of a billion people. It simply doesn’t make sense that a philosophy of evil and violence would hold sway over that many people. And it definitely doesn’t make sense that I can do what you demand of me – “educate the huddled third world masses that blindly follow your extremists…” Remember that one of the key differences between me and those third world masses is that I never struggled under the burden of colonialism and other historical evils – many of them did. Terrorism has roots in many, many things besides religion.

  15. anon

    June 11, 2008 at 5:51 PM

    “Oh, and homosexuality is not a way of life, unless you consider stds a badge of honor.”

    Last I heard the majority of people in the world with STDs are heterosexual. I’m surprised you’re a doctor and don’t know this.

  16. ummafnaan

    June 11, 2008 at 11:48 PM

    Alfonso

    You bloody hypocrite. You and your blood sucking cowardly western governments go around the world bombing and killing innocent men women and children and usurping their resources and occupying their lands just so you can continue to feed the unending greed of YOUR ‘brethren’ in the west and you have the nerve to talk about peace. TALK ABOUT THE POT CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK.

    I live in a third world country and have first hand experience with people who watch their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters die of poverty and starvation thanks to your western governments coming and stealing our resources and then implementing wicked foreign policies to keep these ‘third world countries’ in the gutters so they remain the dominating force in the world. So please tell me how a man who cannot feed his family a single meal a day, can afford to send them to school to be ‘literate’ as you put it? Yet cowardly idiots like you spew out venom from your mouths in the guise of words and have the audacity to sit behind a computer screen and judge others when yu dont even have the guts to come out into the real world and see for your selves the plight and suffering of others. Western blood is ‘sacred’ but the blood of we third world ‘barbarians’ can flow like water right? What a load of BS.

    Go back and read your history books and tell me who the barbarians and murderers are. It is your so called ‘civilised’ west. As we speak it is your soldiers who are raping 14 year old girls in Iraq and sodomising my muslim brethren in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and yet scum like you have the nerve to criticise us muslims as being violent.

    PATHETIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. DrM

    June 12, 2008 at 12:53 AM

    I noticed you only addressed the last sentence of my last post, anon. You didn’t get it, or perhaps that was your intention. While the majority of stds are represented amongst heterosexuals, homosexuals have a higher incidence of stds. But thats really not the point is it? No need to play a dumb fake epidemiologist. You don’t like Muslims, and don’t think its a big deal that our children are attacked(“who cares if a Muslim is attacked?”). Well I care, and will do what it takes to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and the best way to do that is education. Don’t like it? Too bad.

    Oh, and Ummafanan,
    An excellent response to the moronic “Alfonso.” Poor demented hypocrite is apparently high on the Christo-fascist Krusader Kool aid. Wonder what the literacy of people who believe Iraq is responsible for 9/11 is?

  18. um abdullaah

    June 12, 2008 at 2:55 PM

    “I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence. (LUKE 19:26-27)

    “Do not think that I have come to send peace on earth. I did not come to send peace, but a sword. I am sent to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (MATTHEW 10:34-35)

    Hey guys, are these passages from the Qur’an?

  19. DrM

    June 12, 2008 at 5:02 PM

    I see our demented friend “awake”(a Robert Spencer fan for those who don’t know) is up to his usual trolling. What does a Muslim American student being physically attacked in Texas have to do with the “Saudi Academy” in Virginia? Nothing, its a distractor. Never mind the fact that this bigoted idiot neglected to read the last 3 paragraphs of the article he posted. Typical of the shabbos goyim.

  20. ibn bilal

    June 12, 2008 at 11:51 PM

    Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullah,

    We muslims should make it clear to our selves that islam is a deen ( way of life). It’s the only Way of life “religion” that can trace it’s roots and authenticate it’s teachings. Islam has jurisprudences which are traceable and which can evolve within their set limits. This brothers and sisters is a threat to the status quo.

    Can you imagine how jews or christians would be treated in American if their Book of laws were preserved and they could authenticate their teachings and moral conduct. You can read the history books on People of the books encounter with the romans of the past.

    There is no need to cry about “religious rights” or having freedom to speak at a public school about our dean.

    We should be thankful for what we have. Remember it’s not normal for Muslims to live in predominantly non-muslim society.

    Take a lesson from religious minority groups in the past.

    If your only interest is to be a mystic then you underestimated Islam.

    -ibn Bilal

  21. anon

    June 12, 2008 at 11:56 PM

    I didnt’ respond to the beginning of your comment DrM because I had already answered it. Again, why does the religion of a person who was “attacked” matter. Who cares if the kid was muslim. It should have no bearing on this matter. A 7th grader stuffing another kid into a garbage can (which is what apparently happened here) hardly constitutes a hate crime. I can think of several people that happened to when I went to school and no one went around screaming hate crime or went around threatening to report the incident to the FBI. Its completely ridiculous

    And the school district clearly violated their own rules by having this presentation. Their very own rules that they made themselves clearly state that all parents must be notified of presentations and assemblies irregardless of content. Why should this be any different. Oh I forgot, because muslims deserve special treatment

  22. awake

    June 13, 2008 at 8:40 AM

    As for my posting of the special congressional investigation link into the Islamic school in Virginia, it was not a “distractor”, but relevant. And DrM should re-read the strory himself for he is making a claim that does not support his position.

    Initially, Ruth is puzzled why parents might have objected to the assembly without prior notification. That link, provides a valid reason to be wary of religious assemblys in public school settings, especially in light of the curriculum being taught in the US at certain Islamic schools.

    Unless you were at the assembly, you have no idea what dialogue was presented in conjunction with the innocuous powerpoint presentation.

  23. DrM

    June 13, 2008 at 5:38 PM

    Methinks the trolls doth protest a bit too much.
    Anon, you continue to demonstrate your reactionary stupidity which in turn reveals your hostility towards Muslims in general, and no your didn’t respond to my earlier post in full. Of course it MATTERS since the child was targeted because of his faith, idiot. I know you don’t care if Muslim children are attacked, you’ve stated that very clearly. Self-declared anal-retentive loonies like you would be up in arms, foaming at the mouth if the positions were reversed, much less try to “enforce” school codes disingenuously. Hillbilly hypocrisy is amusing.

    Wrong as usual, “awake,” the Saudi Academy(you apparently know more then authorities who cleared them and gave them an extension, so where does a clown like you get of lecturing Ruth about being present at the assembly for the powerpoint presentation?) in Virginia has nothing to do with this case in Texas. You’re high on Spencer’s Gee-Had krusader kool aid which explains you make such loose associations and innuendo. You fail yet again in your pathetic attempt to spread anti-Muslim propaganda.

  24. anon

    June 13, 2008 at 10:21 PM

    “Of course it MATTERS since the child was targeted because of his faith, idiot. I know you don’t care if Muslim children are attacked”

    LOL, there is absolutely no proof of this whatsoever. Notice that the hate crime is referred to as “alleged”. If this was in fact the case the 7th grader would have been charged with some sort of crime by this point or expelled from school. One 7th grader putting another in a garbage can is not a hate crime and it is hardly an “attack”. It is a kid being stupid. And at this point you’re the one looking like an idiot for insisting that the kid was targeted for his faith is when he was obviously not and you really have zero proof that he was.
    And as I stated before, no I don’t care that it was muslim who was “attacked” because his religions had nothing to do with it. Kids get put in garbage cans all over the US in middleschools. Why don’t we go start holding press conferences and threatening law suits over them as well.

  25. DrM

    June 14, 2008 at 2:53 PM

    No proof, anon(apparently you don’t know the meaning of “alleged”)? Says who, the cretin pretends to some sort of online investigator, in addition to being a third rate epidemiologist? I’ll take the word of the child and his father over you. I bet you wouldn’t be so cavalier in your silliness if the tables were turned. Stop beating around the bush, you have a problem with Muslims, let alone trolling Muslim blogs telling us our civil rights are no big deal. I don’t see any law suits, just a proactive power point presentation, so quit foaming foaming at the mouth, Jmbob.
    The only people raising a ruckus about this are far right wing loonies from the Evangelical hillbilly faction. We’re talking the home state of George W(war criminal) Bush here. So you’ll pardon me if I don’t believe your extreme interest in this manufactured controversy and your phony outrage has anything to do with maintaining “separation of Church and State,” something Southerners aren’t known for. Chances are one of these reactionary idiots will end up suing the school district because of the power point separation.
    Either way, I don’t care about your racist sensitivities, target our kids, and we’ll have to take whatever action is necessary to prevent such incidents from the happening in the future.

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