Muslim speakers at Texas school outrage parents

Friendswood Junior HighFRIENDSWOOD — A presentation to Friendswood junior high students about Islam has ignited a furor among some parents. Parents of Friendswood Junior High School students started a letter campaign to school officials in protest of a presentation meant to combat hate and bullying.

On May 22, two Muslim women gave a 30-minute presentation about Islamic culture as part of a yearlong study at the school of respect, tolerance and culture, according to a statement from district officials.

Principal Robin Lowe had “best intentions”, said Karolyn Gephart, district spokeswoman. The guest speakers discussed Muslim culture, including topics such as food, religion, dress, beliefs and famous Muslims, Gephart said. “If you pulled a book about Islam from the library, you would find the same stuff in the book,” Gephart said. “There was no proselytizing.”

Parents, however, were not told about the presentation. By district policy, parents are supposed to be informed about the purpose and content of presentations so that they can keep their children out of the presentation if they think the material might be offensive or inappropriate. Not informing parents beforehand was a mistake that would not happen again, Gephart said.

Kim Leago, whose son is in the eighth grade at the junior high, said she’s still upset that her child was exposed to the “inappropriate” presentation. Choosing to teach about Islamic culture was the “worst choice” of any religion, Leago said. “I’m not a prejudiced person … but Muslims, from what I know of the faith, don’t want to be incorporated with Americans,” she said. “Look at what’s going on in the world right now, with the war and with 9/11.”

Dr. Ahmed Ahmed, a member of the board of directors for the Galveston Islamic Center, said there’s a common misperception that Muslims are somehow un-American. The few Muslims that have tainted the faith as terrorists have helped spread the myth that Islam is violent and extremist. “Muslims in the U.S. are Americans, not intruders,” he said. “They are not invaders; they are not outsiders. We are all Americans, and we are all working toward a better America.”

Galveston Daily News, 31 May 2008

World Net Daily for its part, in an article entitled “Islam-promoting principal defied order to protect kids”, reports that the two speakers were associated with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one of the most mainstream of US Muslim organisations. WND quotes a statement by an organisation called the Houston Area Pastor Council:

“The failure of the principal of Friendswood Junior High to respect simple procedures requiring parental notification for such a potentially controversial subject, to not only approve but participate personally in a religious indoctrination session led by representatives of a group with well-known links to terrorist organizations and her cavalier response when confronted, raises serious questions about her fitness to serve in that role.”