Judge rules Islamic education OK in California classrooms


PDA






Desertdog
December 13, 2003, 10:43 PM
JUDICIAL JIHAD
Judge rules Islamic education OK in California classrooms
Dismisses suit opposing requirement students recite Quran, pray to Allah
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=36118
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Posted: December 13, 2003
1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2003 WorldNetDaily.com

Requiring seventh-grade students to pretend they're Muslims, wear Islamic garb, memorize verses from the Quran, pray to Allah and even to play "jihad games" in California public schools has been legally upheld by a federal judge, who has dismissed a highly publicized lawsuit brought by several Christian students and their parents.

As WND reported in July of last year, the suit was filed by the Thomas More Law Center against the Byron Union School District and various school officials to stop the use of the "Islam simulation" materials and methods used in the Excelsior Elementary School in Byron, Calif.

In her 22-page ruling announced Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton said Excelsior is not indoctrinating students about Islam when it requires them to adopt Muslim names and pray to Allah as part of a history and geography class, but rather is just teaching them about the Muslim religion.

When WorldNetDaily first reported the story in January 2002 – shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks committed by 19 Islamist terrorists – major controversy ensued nationwide.

The World History and Geography class in question is part of a curriculum being taught to seventh-graders all over the state, and is included in the state's curriculum standards required by the state board of education. Although the standards outline what subjects should be taught and will be included in state assessment tests, they don't mandate how they're to be taught.

In the three-week course, Excelsior teacher Brooke Carlin had students assume Islamic names, recite prayers in class, memorize and recite verses from the Quran, and had them simulate Ramadan fasting by going without something for a day. The final test required students to critique Muslim culture.


The Islam simulations at Excelsior are outlined in the state-adopted textbook "Across the Centuries," published by Houghton Mifflin, which prompts students to imagine they are Islamic soldiers and Muslims on a Mecca pilgrimage. The lawsuit also alleges students were encouraged to use such phrases in their speech as "Allah Akbar," which is Arabic for "God is great," and were required to fast during lunch period to simulate fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Nevertheless, the judge ruled the program was devoid of "any devotional or religious intent," and as therefore educational, not religious in nature.

'Double standard' decried

However, Richard Thompson, chief counsel for Thomas More, points to what he calls an obvious double standard.

"While public schools prohibit Christian students from reading the Bible, praying, displaying the Ten Commandments, and even mentioning the word 'God,' students in California are being indoctrinated into the religion of Islam," he told WND on filing the lawsuit. "Public schools would never tolerate teaching Christianity in this way. Just imagine the ACLU’s outcry if students were told that they had to pray the Lord's Prayer, memorize the Ten Commandments, use such phrases as 'Jesus is the Messiah,' and fast during Lent," he added.


According to Thompson, "Although it is constitutional for public schools to have an instructional program about comparative religion or teach about religion and utilize religious books such as the Bible in courses about our history and culture, the Byron Union School District crossed way over the constitutional line when it coerced impressionable 12-year-olds to engage in particular religious rituals and worship, simulated or not."


However, Byron Superintendent Peggy Green defended the program: "Dressing up in costume, role-playing and simulation games are all used to stimulate class discussion and are common teaching practices used in other subjects as well."


And Excelsior Principal Nancie Castro maintained, "At no point do we teach or endorse religion; we teach about religions' impact from a historical context. ... This is the state-approved curriculum, using state-adopted textbooks and has been part of the instructional program in California for over a decade."

Appealing to the 9th Circuit?

Yesterday, Thompson told WND that his legal team believed from the start that, regardless of who won the first round, this case would go to appeal – and that is exactly where he wants it to go. With some irony, Thompson points out that the appeal would go to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"This is the court that said, in the 'Under God' Pledge case, that the mere expression 'One nation under God' [recited in a public school] violates the Constitution," said Thompson. "It will be very interesting to see how they deal with this Byron School District case where students are basically required to become Muslims for three weeks!"

While the Thomas More Law Center is intent on appealing the case, it is awaiting word from the plaintiffs as to their intent.

If you enjoyed reading about "Judge rules Islamic education OK in California classrooms" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
Chris Rhines
December 13, 2003, 11:05 PM
Hey, you turn your kids over to the government educational centers, you shouldn't complain about the 'education' they get...

- Chris

Mark Tyson
December 13, 2003, 11:15 PM
Teaching about different faiths is one thing. This kind of crosses the line into promoting a religion - inappropriate.

Andrew Rothman
December 14, 2003, 01:11 AM
Waaaaaay over the line.

It is entirely possible and very appropriate to teach ABOUT a religion. It is also appropriate to utilize role-playing in the classroom.

It is, however, phenomenally bad judgement to have students role-play being religious.

By the way, here's a somewhat more balanced article:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/09/08/IN87674.DTL

A school lesson on 'jihad'

Vicki Haddock, Insight Staff Writer Sunday, September 8, 2002


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



During the last school year at Excelsior Middle School in eastern Contra Costa County, students say they were encouraged to adopt temporary Islamic names and garb, fast or imitate other requirements of Islam's Five Pillars of Faith, and greet one another with the phrase "Allah Akbar" (Arabic for "God is Great").

Predictably, the matter wound up in the courts.

The Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan-based Christian rights foundation, filed a federal suit this summer on behalf of two families. It charges Contra Costa County's Byron Union School District with violating students' constitutional rights after a seventh-grade class used the workbook "Islam: a Simulation of Islamic History and Culture."

Among its numerous complaints, the suit says students earned grade points by playing games in which claims such as "The Holy Qur'an is God's word as revealed to Prophet Muhammed through the Archangel Gabriel" is correctly answered "truth." In another game, students are told, "Your tribe repels an attack by infidels (non-believers). Praise Allah. Gain 5 dirhams."

The workbook asked students to imagine being Muslim warriors during an ancient jihad, although it's not clear this exercise was ever assigned in Byron.

Exhibit B in the lawsuit is a copy of an assignment not from the workbook, in which students were to explain how their new knowledge affected their opinions of the religion of Islam and/or Muslim people. "BE CAREFUL HERE," the instructions advised. "If you do not have something positive to say, don't say anything!!!!"

Religion in the schools has long been a thorny issue. This time, however, some advocates have switched sides. Some Christians, who clamored loudest to post the Ten Commandments ("Thou shalt have no other gods before me") in public schools, argue that teaching from the Koran is a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state. But civil libertarians, who argued that a New Jersey first-grader should be prohibited from sharing in class a story out of his own "Beginner's Bible," saw nothing wrong with students role-playing a pilgrimage to Mecca.

For a decade, California has woven religion into its social studies curriculum standards, reversing a long-standing practice in which textbooks virtually ignored religion's role in history, politics, art and society.

Today, the state's sixth-graders devote more time to studying the historic role of Christianity than seventh graders do studying Islam. And students often do role-playing to enrich their understanding of history -- whether it's the Renaissance or the Gold Rush.

In the pre-Sept. 11 world, a class in which students engaged in role- playing to learn about Islam, or any other religion, probably wouldn't have caused much of a stir. Post-Sept. 11, it's a different story.

Byron's former school superintendent, Peggy Green, who has moved to another district, has maintained the lawsuit misrepresents what happened in class. In an earlier statement, she said, "Public schools do not 'indoctrinate' children on various religions, but they do expose them to the belief systems that have impacted the formation of the world."

The author of the role-playing workbook on Islam from 610 to 1100 A.D. -- a brisk seller for Carlsbad-based Interaction Publishers Inc. -- is veteran California social studies teacher Terry Handy.

"The purpose behind trying to dress kids up is to immerse them in a different time and culture so that they really understand it in a more vivid, meaningful way," Handy said. "How can you teach about Islam without teaching about religion? In Mideastern countries, their religion is their culture. . . .

"Apparently the simulation frightens people, but I find that ironic because if ever there was a time when people should understand Islam, it's now."

Yet Terry acknowledges he would do things differently if he were writing today, instead of in the early 1990s. He would eliminate the suggestion that students imagine being Muslim warriors during an ancient jihad, defined as "a struggle by Muslims against oppression, invasion and injustice."

"Nobody had heard the term 12 years ago," he said. "In today's climate, it would not be in there."

The California 3Rs project -- sponsored by the First Amendment Center and the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association -- hosts teacher training and advises educators about religious studies.

It specifically cautions against role-playing and simulation games when teaching about religion, warning they "can be easily perceived, rightly or wrongly, as promoting students' participation in religious practice."

Among 3Rs guidelines: teach only through attribution -- say "according to Buddhist scriptures" or "many Christians believe."

As teaching about religion becomes more common, experts predict more clashes -- inevitable, but healthy.

"We have to understand each other's faiths and be able to negotiate through our differences with civility and respect," said Charles C. Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. "America, the boldest and most successful experiment in religious liberty the world has ever seen, depends on our ability to teach it."

E-mail Vicki Haddock at vhaddock@sfchronicle.com.


And an old Washington Times article reprint:

http://www.federalobserver.com/print.php?aid=3172
California school sued over Islamic drills
By Ellen Sorokin - The Washington Times

A group of parents in California is suing a local public school district where at least one middle school, after September 11, encouraged students to wear Muslim robes, adopt Islamic names and stage make-believe pilgrimages to Mecca to learn about the faith.

The lawsuit, filed recently in federal court in San Francisco, contends that the simulation exercises that took place at the Excelsior School in the Byron Union School District near Oakland violated the students' First Amendment rights.

Specifically, the lawsuit seeks to have the court find that the school district violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by using taxpayer dollars to teach students how to practice a religion. The suit also asked the court to prohibit the district from funding and implementing simulations of Islam.

"This is unbelievable," said Richard Thompson, chief counsel and executive director of the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan, a national public interest law firm representing the parents and their children.

"While public schools prohibit Christian students from reading the Bible, praying, displaying the Ten Commandments and even mentioning the word 'God,' students in California are being indoctrinated into the religion of Islam."

Peggy Green, superintendent of the Byron Union School District, said yesterday that her district has not yet been served with the lawsuit. She added, however, that the Excelsior School was not teaching Islam in any way.

"We are not teaching religion," she said. "We're teaching world history. We teach about all major religions, and this unit in question was just one of many. The allegations in the lawsuit don't accurately reflect what was going on in the classroom."

The course on Islam is one of 11 units of a social studies class called World History and Geography: Medieval and Early Modern Times that is being taught all over the state. The class is included in the state's curriculum standards, which were approved by state officials in 1998.

According to the lawsuit, about 125 students dressed up in Muslim robes, studied Islamic proverbs and read verses from the Koran to earn points toward their overall grade. It said the students were required to say phrases such as "Allah Akbar," which is Arabic for "God is great," and memorize Muslim prayers, fulfill the Five Pillars of Islam and fast during lunch to simulate the fasting done during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. "From the beginning, you and your classmates will become Muslims," the handout read. "Dressing as a Muslim and trying to be involved will increase your learning and enjoyment."

The students also had to pick a Muslim name out of a list of 30 to replace their name and had to organize a mock hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca using a dice game.

Mrs. Green said each of the students picked an Islamic name, but none was ever addressed by it in class. She also said the students were not required to memorize any verses from the Koran and never prayed to Allah or recited the phrase "Allah Akbar." The students learned about the Five Pillars of Islam, she said, only because the state of California mandates that all seventh-graders learn them.

She also said the students could dress up in Muslim robes to earn extra points for a play they were asked to put on. For bonus points, students also could give up watching television or could fast at lunch during Ramadan.

"These children always had a choice," she said. "There was no coercion and no insistence that they do any of these activities if they didn't want to."

Mr. Thompson disagreed. "The Byron Union School District crossed way over the constitutional line when it coerced impressionable 12-year-olds to engage in particular religious rituals and worship, simulated or not," he said.

Parents didn't know their children were being encouraged to participate in such a program, Mr. Thompson said. "Parents with children in this course were totally caught off guard and had no idea what their children were being taught."

Mrs. Green said the state requires all school districts to notify parents about what's coming up in their children's classes. She also said that all parents in the Excelsior class had the option to pull their children out if they felt uncomfortable with the material.

At the beginning of the school year last fall, Excelsior school officials sent home a copy of the textbook used for the Islam section so parents would know what would be taught.

"All the parents would have to do is pick up the book and see what their children are learning," she said.

Two families did choose to keep their children out, Mrs. Green said. These families are not the ones suing the school district.

Desertdog
December 14, 2003, 03:03 AM
"While public schools prohibit Christian students from reading the Bible, praying, displaying the Ten Commandments and even mentioning the word 'God,' students in California are being indoctrinated into the religion of Islam."
This was the basis for the lawsuit, and the judge said that teaching Islam and role playing as Muslims was fine.
Think how the judge would reacted if the children had dressed and role played as the apostles.:cuss:
Equal protection under the law?:barf:

MicroBalrog
December 14, 2003, 08:38 AM
"Islam: a Simulation of Islamic History and Culture."

What's the big fuss all about?:confused: :confused: :confused:

clubsoda22
December 14, 2003, 09:36 AM
Hahahahahahaha!!!!

A "Jihad Games" Simulator! :rolleyes:

Check it out, i'm the fastest draw in the middle east ::click:: KABOOOM!!!

greyhound
December 14, 2003, 10:01 AM
In the pre-Sept. 11 world, a class in which students engaged in role- playing to learn about Islam, or any other religion, probably wouldn't have caused much of a stir. Post-Sept. 11, it's a different story.

You can say that again. I never in my life thought it would be important to know what a fatwa was, or dar-al-Islam compared to dar-al-harb, or what dhimmi was, or the difference between Sunni and Shiite, or mullah and imam, and what Sharia meant etc, etc. All that changed on 9/11.

CAIR, AIM, etc should seriously stop to reflect that the average American knows MUCH more about Islam since 9/11, both the good and the bad, as in all things. They can whine all they want and try to cover up the bad, but the average American knows a snow job when they see one. But we are also fair, and do not taint all Muslims with the views of a small minority; but unlike CAIR, AIM, etc we don't deny thet exist.

c_yeager
December 14, 2003, 10:07 AM
The really sad part of this is that having people play dress up and ape the motions of ones religion is generally pretty offensive. I would imagine that Muslims at large arent any less pissed off about this than the rest of us. Personally i would be pretty ticked if a school in a predominantly Islamic area had their kids dress up with pope-hats and make a mockery of MY religion too.

jimpeel
December 14, 2003, 02:42 PM
So when they teach the kids about California Mexican history do they have the kids dress in serapes and sombreros, say "Hola", "Vaya co Dios", and "Adios", and take siestas at 2PM?

longeyes
December 14, 2003, 03:10 PM
Apparently anyone but a judge can tell the difference between education and indoctrination.

Moparmike
December 14, 2003, 06:41 PM
Requiring seventh-grade students to pretend they're Muslims, wear Islamic garb, memorize verses from the Quran, pray to Allah and even to play "jihad games" in California public schools has been legally upheld by a federal judge, who has dismissed a highly publicized lawsuit brought by several Christian students and their parents. Wait. Let me get this straight. Kids were required to participate in religious activities in a secular environment in the name of cultural learning? ***? Like others have said, if a teacher required kids to dress up as priests and nuns, and sing hymns, the ACLU would riot! People would go apesh...err...apecrap! Yet if its something besides Christianity its not religion, its "cultural enhancement." Yay doublespeak. I still havent recieved my doubleplusgood TV yet.:rolleyes:

If you enjoyed reading about "Judge rules Islamic education OK in California classrooms" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!