A school district in Virginia was forced to cancel classes after parents complained about a geography lesson that had students attempting to write an Islamic verse in Arabic. Parents claimed the lesson was anti-American and called it 'Islamic indoctrination'.
"When I saw the language, the Arabic language, immediately I had a bad feeling come over me," concerned parent Kimberly Herndon told NBC affiliate WVIR. The students were asked to copy the Shahada, which reads "There is no other God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger," for a written assignment on culture. Some students were also allowed to put on a Hijab as part of the interactive lesson intended to teach them about religious clothing.
While Herndon, a parent of six, posted a message of outcry on Facebook, the Superintendent of Augusta County Schools said the lessons were not meant as Islamic indoctrination. "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." WVIR reported that the superintendent added that students will face similar lessons when studying Chinese and African cultures.
However, the outcry over the lesson has reach such a point that the Augusta County School Board was forced to cancel classes. In a statement on 17 December the school board said that while it has not received any threats, complaints have increased and "based on concerns regarding the tone and content of those communications," it decided to close schools on 18 December.
Riverbeds High School, where the lesson was taught, was forced to go on lockdown on 16 and 17 December once all the students entered the building, Augusta County Sheriff Randy Fisher revealed. Fisher said the controversy led to a barrage of "profane" and "hateful" messages sent from around the country.