Verona: A homework on Islam has led to closure of schools in Virginia county. After the deadly attacks in Paris, reports of Muslims around the US facing backlash have been cropping up now and then. And this incident has revived a debate on religion and education.
On Thursday, a school in Virginia had handed out a standard homework assignment on Islam and it led to such an angry backlash that officials had to close every school in the county as a safety precaution.
Media outlets report that a Riverheads High School teacher last week asked students to complete an assignment that included practicing calligraphy and writing a Muslim statement of faith. Students weren't asked to translate the statement or recite it.
The assignment read:
"Here is the shahada, the Islamic statement of faith, written in Arabic. In the space below, try copying it by hand. This should give you an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy."
The illustrative classical Arabic phrase translated to: "There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is the messenger of Allah."
According to Augusta County School Board president Eric Bond, the school district received "voluminous" phone calls and e-mails about the lesson.
Some of the parents saw the homework as an attempt to convert their children to Islam.
Reacting to the parents' concerns, the county school system removed the shahada from world religion instruction and said no one was trying to convert anyone to any religion.
"Neither of these lessons, nor any other lessons in the world geography course, are an attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion or a request for students to renounce their own faith or profess any belief," Bond said in a statement to CNN affiliate WHSV.
Bond announced on Thursday that schools would be closed on Friday. He added that the decision was made "out of an abundance of caution" after consulting with law enforcement. The county also canceled extracurricular activities through the weekend.