Lawsuit: Maryland school punished student for refusing to recite shahada

Lawsuit: Maryland school punished student for refusing to recite shahada
Islamic State peaceniks pose with shahada. Image source: www.bbc.com

Liberty Unyielding has reported previously on the case of the Wood family in La Plata, MD, whose daughter was in a World History class that taught Islam in a non-factual and tendentiously favorable way.

In October 2014, Renee Nal described how father Kevin Wood, a former Marine, was issued a “no trespass” order prohibiting him from visiting the school, after he expressed his concern about what was going on in his daughter’s classroom.

Last week, the Thomas More Law Center filed a complaint against the school system on behalf of the Woods.

The important aspects of the case have been summarized in numerous places, including the links above.  But because there are several things to be concerned about, it can be easy to miss the most egregious wrong being done by the school.

That wrong is requiring students to write out and recite the Islamic statement of faith, or shahada, for a grade.

According to the Woods’ complaint against the school, their daughter was to be graded on doing this as part of the classroom instruction.  Because she declined to, she was given a grade of 0 for the assignment.

The following passage from the suit filed in federal court gives a flavor of what the children were being taught and required to do.

  1. Defendants required the students in the 11th grade World History class, including C.W., to profess statements on the teachings and beliefs of Islam in written worksheets as graded homework assignments.

  2. C.W. and her classmates in 11th grade World History were instructed that “Most Muslim’s faith is stronger than the average Christian.” (Exhibit 1) (emphasis in original).

  3. C.W. also had to profess the Shahada, by claiming, “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” (Exhibit 2).

  4. C.W. and her classmates in 11th grade World History were instructed that “jihad” is a “holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty; a personal struggle in devotion to Islam especially involving spiritual discipline.” (Exhibit 1) (emphasis in original).

  5. C.W. and her classmates in 11th grade World History were instructed from the text of the Qur’an and had to learn and recite the Five Pillars of Islam. (Exhibit 2).

  6. C.W. and her classmates in 11th grade World History were instructed that the Islamic religion is a fact while Christianity and Judaism are just beliefs. For example that the “Qur’an is the word of Allah as revealed to Muhammad in the same way that Jews and Christians believe the Torah and the Gospels were revealed to Moses and the New Testament writers,” (Exhibit 1) (emphasis added only to “is” and “believe”), and that Muhammad was visited by the Angel Gabriel who proclaimed to him that there is only one true god. (Exhibit 2).

  7. C.W. and her classmates in 11th grade World History were instructed from the Qur’an that “Men are the managers of the affairs of women” and that “[r]ighteous women are therefore obedient.” (Exhibits 1, 2) (emphasis in originals). This statement conflicts with Plaintiffs and C.W.’s Christian beliefs and heritage that C.W. is blessed by God with the talents, gifts, and abilities to manage her own affairs and to place her obedience with God.

The full complaint can be perused here.  The Woods had other objections to the teaching materials for the two-week block on Islam (as compared to a one-day block on Christianity), and their daughter – referred to as C.W. in the complaint because she’s a minor – received multiple grades of 0 because she ended up not participating in the class during the Islam block.  She was sent to the library by herself, in fact.  Her overall grade in World History suffered significantly.

About some of these things, perhaps, honest citizens might disagree; i.e., as to whether the instruction was dishonest, deceitful, propagandistic, or merely couched in imprecise terms.  Maybe we could agree, for example, that when the nature of Islamic beliefs is being taught, it isn’t necessary to preface every statement with “Muslims believe…”  That caveat can be understood.

But that’s not the sum total of what’s going on here, and the egregious wrong – making the students write and recite the shahada for a grade – can legitimately be taken as the benchmark of what is intended by this instruction.  It isn’t meant as an empirical, skeptical treatment of a major world religion.

Interestingly, across the state border in Augusta County, VA, there was a mass reaction from parents in December 2015 when they discovered that their high school students had been asked to copy the shahada in Arabic as a “calligraphy exercise.”  Howard Portnoy reported on this at the time. Indignation was so widespread that all the schools in the system were abruptly closed for the last day before Christmas break (18 December).

As a reminder, the shahada is what is written on the “black flag of jihad,” of which Islamic State (ISIS) uses its own stylized version.  You truly have to be so far beyond “tolerant” that you have no standards or sense of rational boundaries, to not agree with parents that their children shouldn’t be required to write or recite this for a grade.  Instruction can be perfectly adequate without doing that.  There is zero chance that not writing or reciting the shahada in history class will produce a generation of violently bigoted Americans.

In light of all the other aspects of the Wood case, one last point is very telling.  The instruction block on Islam was drawn from a textbook that had to be kept in the classroom and was never allowed to be taken home by the students.  The students did ferry their official textbook back and forth on a regular basis.  But the textbook used for the Islam instruction never went home for the parents to see.

This is wrong and indefensible — and it acts like it is.  It shouldn’t be going on in our schools, and it needs to stop.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.


Commenting Policy

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse.

You may use HTML in your comments. Feel free to review the full list of allowed HTML here.