A Virginia county closed all of its schools Friday because of intense backlash over a class assignment about Islam, with some parents alleging that their children were being subjected to Muslim indoctrination and educators emphasizing the importance of exposing U.S. students to the world’s fastest-growing religion.
A high school geography teacher in rural Augusta County asked students to try their hand at writing the shahada, an Islamic declaration of faith, in Arabic calligraphy. The task, community reaction to it, and a sudden influx of outrage from around the country — including angry emails, phone calls and threats to put the teacher’s head on a stake — led the school district to close rather than risk disruption or violence.
The county, in the Shenandoah valley west of Charlottesville, Va., is the latest to wrestle with how Islam should be portrayed in the classroom and how students should learn about it. It’s a subject that has become increasingly fraught as concerns about Islamophobia have grown alongside fears of extremist violence and terrorism.