Tennessee mother lobbies for removal of studies on Islam from curriculum

28th Oct 2016
Tennessee mother lobbies for removal of studies on Islam from curriculum

Michelle Edmisten from Sullivan County that Bluff City Middle School violated her daughter’s “personal religious beliefs” by teaching her about Islam (L), some of the questions pupils were asked to answer in the Tennessee based school (Photo: Creative Commons)

Elham Asaad Buaras

A mother in the United States has launched a campaign against the textbooks used in her local Tennessee school district after her daughter was taught about Islam.

As part of the 7th grade (US equivalent of Year 8) social studies, students in Bluff City Middle School were asked a series of basic questions about Islam that include listing the five pillars of Islam and naming Islam’s holy book.

Though the questions are uncontroversial, Michelle Edmisten from Sullivan County is adamant that the school violated her daughter’s “personal religious beliefs” by giving her a zero for refusing the work.

“Those are zeroes that we proudly took and we will not compromise,” said Edmisten.

Edmisten demanded that the Sullivan County Board of Education in Blountville, Tennessee remove the textbook at a school board meeting on October 3.

“It is time as parents, teachers and administrators we stand up and take back our families, our schools and our country,” Edmisten said.

“I would like to see parents, Christians, veterans, anyone that’s anyone, stand up for this fight,” she said.

“How can I, as a Christian, say that I have these values? And I want to instill these values in my daughter, but then say it’s okay, go ahead and do it.”

Edmisten was the only parent to speak about the issue.

Edmisten added that she has contacted a lawyer but that all she wants is the right of a parent to opt their child out of religious history “set in stone.” She said current policy leaves the decision up to individual teachers.

The school board explained the process for replacing textbooks would have to meet state standards. According to the state board of education’s website, those standards include educating students about Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism in 6th grade, and Islam in 7th grade, “including Islam’s historical connections to Judaism and Christianity.”

The National Council for Social Studies (NCSS), a professional organisation that supports social studies teachers and programmes, called the study of religions an “essential” part of the curriculum.

A spokesman for the NCSS told The Muslim News, “Knowledge about religions is not only a characteristic of an educated person but is necessary for effective and engaged citizenship in a diverse nation and world. Religious literacy dispels stereotypes, promotes cross-cultural understanding and encourages respect for the rights of others to religious liberty.”

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

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