Middle East studies in the News
Pro-Sharia Law Middle School Worksheet Angers Parents
by Michael F. Haverluck
After students at a southern Indiana middle school were assigned to study and complete a worksheet that allegedly portrays the oppressive and brutal Islamic Sharia law in a positive light, parents are speaking out in strong opposition.
Seventh graders at Highland Hills Middle School in Georgetown, Indiana, were given the pro-Muslim assignment that spurred several parents to voice their disapproval of it at a recent New Albany-Floyd Country School Board meeting, alleging that it indoctrinated students certain beliefs about the Middle Eastern religion, according to the Courier-Journal.
Sharia law ... all good?
The controversial assignment introduces students to Sharia law in a disarming and conversational way.
"The worksheet in question features a passage attributed to a fictional 20-year-old woman from Saudi Arabia named Ahlima," The Christian Post (CP) reports. "In the passage, Ahlima states that she is 'very fortunate' to be living under the rule of Sharia law – which in many Muslim cultures is a strict religious code that governs the way Muslims dress and act. She goes on to explain that she will soon be married and become a man's second wife."
On the worksheet, the Islamic garb that covers women from head to toe – which is considered to be a sign of oppression and inequality for Muslim women – is portrayed as something American girls should feel honored to wear.
"I understand that some foreigners see our dress as a way of keeping women from being equal," the worksheet reads. "But ... I find Western women's clothing to be horribly immodest."
Parents are concerned that only a pro-Islam view about Sharia law is being taught in the classroom – teaching that does not mention warnings issued by experts on Islam in the West who have alerted Americans and Europeans about the brutal practices enforced through the Islamic law that persecutes women and those not submitting to Islamic teachings.
At the school board meeting, one father compared the teachings on the worksheet to a lesson that extolled Nazi Germany and all that it stood for, while omitting any mention about the millions of Jewish people who were brutally murdered in the concentration camps of the Holocaust during World War II.
"The way that the worksheet is left would be like describing how effective Hitler was at nationalizing Germany and creating patriotism, but leaving out that he slaughtered 6 million Jews," Dean Hohl, a parent of one of the middle schoolers, contended during the school board meeting.
Another disgruntled parent argued that his daughter's worksheet was just a little short of qualifying as a "propaganda" piece handed out by oppressive governments.
"If you read that, you would think everything's wonderful in that world," parent Jon Baker expressed before the Indiana school board members.
The truth withheld
Needless to say, the blatantly negative aspects of Sharia law are not mentioned to students at the Indiana middle school – including the brutal realities that many Muslim women must face under the Islamic penal code on a daily basis around the world.
"Under some versions of Sharia law, men are allowed to have multiple wives, while women are often stoned to death for adultery or punished for leaving home without being accompanied by her husband, father or closest male relative," CP's Samuel Smith informed. "Additionally, women who are not married can be lashed if they have relations out of wedlock. There are also strict consequences for apostasy and blasphemy."
Also not discussed on the "educational" worksheet was how many Muslim nations deal with those who offend Islam, its prophet Muhammad, and its god, Allah. The recent imprisonment of atheist blogger, Raif Badawi, was not mentioned, or how Saudi Arabian law – modeled after Sharia law – called for him to receive 1,000 lashes in addition to his jail time as punishment for allegations made against him that he insulted Islam in one of his posts.
A comparison between Sharia law and the Saudi penal code was made by the Internet news source, Middle East Eye, which reported that the blogger faced the same merciless treatment that ISIS inflicted upon its victims in Syrian and Iraq.
Using curriculum to indoctrinate, not teach
Hohl said his daughter explained to him that the worksheet was designed to help students identify stereotypes, but he noted from his own experience working in Malaysia that the Sharia law enforced there is not the same friendly law taught at the middle school.
"I'm just not okay with my daughter – or any child that age – leaving class with the understanding that anything about Sharia law is okay," he insisted. "Let's tell the whole truth. Let's help people understand what's really happening and what the rest of the world is like, so when they are interacting with the rest of their global peer group, we can reduce the likelihood of conflict and misunderstanding."
After receiving numerous parental complaints, school district spokesman Bill Briscoe notified the Courier-Journal that school officials are examining the curriculum.
Justifying lopsided teaching
Sharon Coletti, who created the worksheet in question and serves as the president of InspireEd Educators, Inc. – the corporation that published it – told the Courier-Journal that that she received death threats over the worksheet in Smyrna, Georgia, where it was also used in the classroom. However, she rationalized the teachings on the worksheet.
"Coletti explained that she developed the lesson over 20 years ago, when social studies standards required that students learn about Middle East culture," Smith announced. "She said that the fictional passage is based on a news interview she had seen of a Muslim woman who had a positive outlook on Sharia law."
It was then insisted that the worksheet was intended to be taught in a certain context so that students' critical thinking skills would be sharpened.
"The initial curriculum called for the worksheet in question to be paired with another worksheet of an Israeli woman offering her perspective," Smith continued. "The goal was to engage students in critical thinking and force them to come to their own conclusions about Middle East culture."
According to Coletti, the primary objective for the lesson was to teach students that the Middle Eastern country of Israel has more freedoms than its Islamic neighboring nation to the south, Saudi Arabia.
"If I can shape something so that kids have to decide for themselves – once I get them involved in the situation – they never forget it," Coletti shared, claiming that the middle school worksheet will no longer be taught as part of the curriculum due to the negative feedback it has received.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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