The Marietta Daily Journal, a local newspaper based in Cobb County, Georgia, ran a story in September about a public school parent’s complaints regarding the “promotion” of Islam in his child’s middle school social studies class.
Apparently during the session on geography of the Middle East, material was presented to represent how a fictional Muslim woman might communicate to someone in America and as such, show her preference for sharia law, the only law she knows, over constitutional law.
Unfortunately, the parent in question seemed to somehow conclude that the lesson was meant to promote Islam; rather than seeing it as an opportunity to discuss why a young woman in an Islamic country might view Western democracy as a threat to her culture – and might ultimately lead to a discussion on the genesis of Islamic extremism, the problems of a society whose people live without protection of individual freedom, and the dangers of theocracy. When the complaint reached Area Superintendent Dale Gaddis, rather than push back in the name of academic freedom, he folded and suggested that they (the school system) worked with that particular teacher to understand how the material should be used.
Given that backdrop, Marietta Daily Journal columnist Laura Armstrong ran a follow up opinion piece actually titled, “Parents Must Band Together and Say No to the ‘Islamizing’ of Public Schools.”
In this piece, not only does she reach the same erroneous conclusion that the aforementioned parent reached, but she goes on to suggest with a straight face that this was just one of many instances of “creeping shariah, stealth jihad and encroachment of Islamic tenets into America’s public schools.” She cites as evidence, the work of seemingly paranoid blogger, Pamela Geller. A quick skim of Ms. Geller’s alarmist website to even the most casual observer, should fairly quickly indicate her affinity for fringe thinking, and by extension, Ms. Armstrong’s as well.
To suggest that a lesson on the Middle East could avoid an examination of Islam is quite frankly ludicrous. Equally ludicrous is to suggest that an examination of Islam is equivalent to proselytizing the religion. One only need to look at the relevant Georgia Performance Standards to see the intention:
SS7G8 The student will describe the diverse cultures of the people who live in Southwest Asia (Middle East).
a. Explain the differences between an ethnic group and a religious group.
b. Explain the diversity of religions within the Arabs, Persians, and Kurds.
c. Compare and contrast the prominent religions in Southwest Asia (Middle East): Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
d. Explain the reason for the division between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
e. Evaluate how the literacy rate affects the standard of living.
Sadly, a review of the comments on Ms. Armstrong’s piece reveals that a majority of those who took the time to post, agree with Ms. Armstrong and have little regard for a proper examination of the Middle East.