Middle East studies in the News
Georgia Middle School Assignment Depicts 'Positive' Aspects of Shariah Law
by Madeleine Morgenstern
A Georgia middle school adjusted its lessons after a father complained that his daughter's homework assignment promoted Shariah law.
According to the Marietta Daily Journal, the assignment was supposed to teach students at Campbell Middle School about the pros and cons of school uniforms. It featured a letter from a woman who said she is "proud and happy" to be Muslim and to completely cover herself in public — and also that her husband could take another wife rather than divorce her if their marriage gets rocky:
"I thought this was absurd," parent Hal Medlin said. "[The teacher] was trying to compare Islamic rules of dress and how they compared to school uniforms, which I thought was a stretch. The principal and the [superintendent] agreed with me … but they wouldn't agree with my premise that it put Islam in a positive light because of the [statements]."
Medlin, who described himself as conservative, found the statements on polygamy particularly egregious: "I understand that some Westerners condemn our practice of polygamy, but I also know they are wrong," the assignment said.
"It's promoting or positively depicting their belief that polygamy is fine, if that's what they believe," he told WSB-TV. "But I don't know how you could possibly state that and not have any kind of disclaimer that this is what these people think, but not necessarily what all of us believe."
Another part of the assignment lists the requirements for women's clothing according to Islam, including that it cannot resemble the clothing of non-believing women and must protect women from the lustful gaze of men.
It states, "Islam liberated woman over 1,400 years ago. Is it better to dress according to man or God?"
"It represents Islam in a positive manner. That doesn't offend me as much as the fact that it represents no other religions," Medlin said. "To me, this material is being used the way it's used is like tearing a page out of text book and saying here's the whole story."
But Sharon Coletti, the founder of InspirEd Educators and the creator of the material, said she does not understand Medlin's objection.
"This particular sequence is a two-day social studies lesson. They read this letter and then examine stereotyping. The next lesson is a compare and contrast on the role of women in the Middle East," she told the Daily Journal. "Yes, the Muslim girl stereotypes Western women, but are there ways we stereotype Muslims? I have no idea what the objection is."
"It's important for kids to have some empathy for other people in the world. Some people think we're trying to teach their children to be Muslims, and that could not be more ridiculous," she said.
According to the Daily Journal, the teacher has since adjusted the material for the lesson. Dale Gaddis, a district area superintendent, acknowledged that it could have been taught in a better way but did not entirely discount the material.
"Teachers may select materials that aren't always the best, which is not necessary in this case, but within the adopted materials, they have choices that they can make with how they present certain items," Gaddis said . "It was in range of the teacher and the course, which had to do with the eastern cultures."Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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