Approval rescinded for Shari’a Law event at Farragut High School

April 9, 2014

 

Knox County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre has rescinded approval for an upcoming event at Farragut High School that some said discriminated against Muslims.

“The primary purpose of our school facilities is to provide a safe, healthy and comfortable learning environment for our students.  When other uses of the facility begin to impinge on or interfere with the administration’s ability to provide a suitable education atmosphere, it is necessary for us to reconsider that use,” read a letter sent to the group on Friday.

ACT! For America had planned on hosting what they called a town hall meeting to learn about Shari’a law, but some believe the group is doing more harm than good.

“It’s kind of an aggressive tone on the flyer,” said Abdel Rahman Murphy.

A flyer directing people to the town hall meeting by ACT! for America discussing Islam recently caught the attention of some people in the Knoxville Muslim community.

Murphy is the University of Tennessee Muslim Chaplain. He says he was contacted by a friend who saw it and raised concerns.

6 News reached out to the Knoxville chapter of ACT! for America. They say it is about education.

John Peach with ACT! For America implied that the venue simply should not matter.

“We feel like it’s very important that we have our public institutions take part in this because it’s not meant to be a religious thing. It’s not a political thing. It’s particularly for education purposes,” said Peach.

“The purpose of the meeting was to educate our local citizens about the dangers of Sharia Law, especially as it negatively affects our children, our churches, our law enforcement personnel, and our community leaders. Now, due to the fear of Muslims in the Knoxville area, the venue for the event that was open to everyone was cancelled. This is a great example of what Sharia Law is doing to America.”

There is no word yet if ACT! for America plans to hold the event in a new venue.

Whilst, The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today said it has joined with concerned Muslims in Tennessee in welcoming cancellation of an anti-Muslim event scheduled for April 24 at a Knoxville high school.

6 ABC News: http://www.wate.com/story/25220254/upcoming-event-at-high-school-as-some-muslims-on-edge

CAIR.com: https://www.cair.com/press-center/press-releases/12446-cair-welcomes-cancellation-of-anti-muslim-event-in-tenn-school.html

Muslim parent upset over school flyer promoting church’s Easter egg hunt

April 4, 2014

 

Some Muslim parents are concerned about public schools in Dearborn handing out flyers to all students advertising an Easter egg hunt, saying it violates the principle of church and state separation.

A flyer headlined “Eggstravaganza!” was given to students this week at three elementary schools in the Dearborn Public Schools district, which has a substantial number of Muslim students. The flyer described an April 12 event at Cherry Hill Presbyterian Church in Dearborn featuring an egg hunt, relay race, and egg toss. It asked students to RSVP “to secure your free spot” and included images of eggs and a bunny.

“It really bothered my two kids,” said parent Majed Moughni, who is Muslim and has two children, ages 7 and 9, in Dearborn elementary schools. “My son was like, ‘Dad, I really don’t feel comfortable getting these flyers, telling me to go to church. I thought churches are not supposed to mix with schools.’ ”

Moughni said he’s concerned about “using school teachers paid by public funds … to pass out these flyers that are being distributed by a church. I think that’s a serious violation of separation of church and state.”

David Mustonen, spokesman for Dearborn Public Schools, did not respond Thursday to several requests by the Free Press for comment.

The pastor of Cherry Hill Presbyterian Church defended the flyer, saying it was approved for distribution by Dearborn Public Schools and is not promoting a religious event.

“It’s designed to be an opportunity to invite the community to come for a day of activity,” said Pastor Neeta Nichols of Cherry Hill. “There is not a religious component to this event.”

And in recent years, other Muslim parents have complained about what they say are attempts to convert their children. The Conquerors, a Grandville-based group of Christian athletes who display feats of strength to spread the message of Jesus, have performed in Dearborn schools, drawing some concern. In 2009, there was controversy over an assistant wrestling coach who some parents said was trying to convert Muslim wrestlers, which the coach denied.

Moughni said he greatly respects Christianity, but believes that schools should not promote events related to religious holidays. He said he would oppose flyers that promoted events at mosques as well.

Detroit Free Press: http://www.freep.com/article/20140404/NEWS05/304040016/Muslim-parents-upset-over-flier-promoting-Easter-egg-hunt-at-church

Alleged plot to ‘take over’ and run schools on strict Islamic principles

March 7, 2014

 

An alleged plot to oust some Birmingham head teachers and make their schools adhere to more Islamic principles is being investigated. A letter detailing the plan, known as “Operation Trojan Horse”, claims responsibility for leadership changes at four schools.

These schools are Adderley Primary, Saltley School, Park View School and Regents Park Community Primary School.

Saltley’s head teacher resigned last year after a critical Ofsted report. Inspectors said there was a “dysfunctional” relationship between head teacher Balwant Bains and governors which was hindering the school.

The letter, which purports to outline “Operation Trojan Horse”, has subsequently been sent to at least another 12 schools in the city – all believed to be vulnerable to takeover. It states that parents could be encouraged to turn against the leadership team if they are told the school is “corrupting their children with sex education, teaching about homosexuals, making their children pray Christian prayers and [carrying out] mixed swimming and sport”. It says: “We have an obligation to our children to fulfil our roles and ensure these schools are run on Islamic principles.”

The head teachers of the schools met Birmingham City Council on Thursday to discuss their concerns.

The letter was apparently written by someone in Birmingham to a contact in Bradford, and goes on to outline ways and means by which schools can be taken over. The letter implies these methods have already been put into action and urges the recipient to use Ofsted reports to identify schools in predominantly Muslim areas which are struggling. It says that Salafi parents should be enlisted to help, because they are regarded as a more orthodox branch of Islam and would be more likely to be willing to help.

Although the authorities have been aware of the alleged plot since November, the details have only become public now thanks to the letter which has been widely leaked.

It is unknown whether it’s genuine or a fake, but that’s one of the questions the city council is attempting to answer with its investigation. It was sent to the city council in 2013 and has led to a number of investigations. The Department for Education’s (DfE) Extremist Unit is also involved and the West Midlands Police Counter-Terrorism Unit has also looked into the case after being handed the letter in December 2013 although Supt. Sue Southern, head of the unit, said it was decided the allegations in the letter were “not a matter for the police”.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said it had “received some anonymous letters in February which claimed that an extremist religious group was trying to engineer the sacking of head teachers who did not promote the group’s ideals”. It said it was working with the police, the Department for Education and Birmingham City Council to investigate the claim.

Liam Byrne, Labour MP for Hodge Hill, said he had held urgent talks with Ofsted, City Council officials, the office of Michael Gove and DfE officials.

 

The BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-birmingham-26482599

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/mar/07/alleged-plot-birmingham-schools-islamic-principles

Individuals Convicted, Fined for Ibn Ghaldoun School Exam Theft

February 14, 2014

 

The three individuals suspected of stealing tests from the Ibn Ghaldoun school in Rotterdam have been convicted for the theft and distribution of 27 exam papers. The sentence is one month in jail and 170 hours community service. Since all three spent time in custody during the investigation, they will not have to return to jail to complete the sentence. The three have also been told they are responsible for paying 86,000 euros to the education ministry to cover the cost of exam retakes.

Dutch News: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2014/02/school_exam_thieves_now_face_b.php

Earlier euro-islam news summary of the issue: http://www.euro-islam.info/2013/06/20/national-final-exams-stolen-at-rotterdam-islamic-school/

Florida girl attacked after wearing hijab to school

February 4, 2014

 

Teen says she has been bullied in school
HAINES CITY, Fla. —A Florida girl said she has been verbally and physically assaulted because she wears a hijab, or head scarf, to school.

Zahrah Habibulla, 14, said she didn’t have problems at school with other children until she started wearing her hijab on Dec. 14. The Polk County teen said she wears the hijab for religious reasons.

“I’ve been bullied in school,” she said. “I had verbal assaults, physical assaults.”

Each time the teen was attacked, she told her mother, who then called the principal of Ridge Community High School.

Zahrah’s parents told WESH 2 News in an exclusive interview that they want something done before their daughter is hurt.

“It breaks my heart. I don’t want to see that,” said Zameena Habibulla. “I’m hoping for a safer school for her. Every day she goes to school I’ve got fear.”

The Polk County School District released the following statement Monday:
“Since learning of these concerns, school officials have taken a proactive role in addressing any issues to ensure the safety and welfare of the student. The School Board remains committed to providing an educational environment that is safe, secure and free from harassment or bullying.”

A member of the American Muslim Youth Leadership Council has also met with the school’s principal to urge action from school officials.

WESH(NBC):  http://www.wesh.com/news/central-florida/florida-girl-attacked-after-wearing-hijab-to-school/-/11788162/24271022/-/x92r5g/-/index.html#ixzz2tXijNW1r

Bolton science teacher arrested by counter-terrorism officers over Syria links

January 7, 2014

 

A science teacher from a Bolton school who was highly regarded by his pupils has been arrested on suspicion of preparing for acts of terrorism in Syria. Jamshed Javeed, who lives in Manchester and teaches at Sharples High School, was arrested by a regional counter-terrorism unit on 22 December, according to police.

It is understood that Mr Javeed, who is from Levenshulme, had not travelled to Syria, but was alleged to have been preparing to do so. Parents were sent a letter from the school’s headmistress. It said: “Mr Javeed, who is one of our science teachers, was arrested and is on bail, but not charged, as part of an investigation into concerns around possible travelling to Syria for reasons as yet unknown. I want to reassure you that there is no suggestion that Mr Javeed’s alleged activities have involved anyone at the school or the school itself.”

A Greater Manchester Police spokesman said: “The investigation focuses on concerns over an individual travelling to Syria for purposes that are as yet unknown, but are believed to potentially involve terrorism. There is nothing to suggest that any of the wider community in Manchester has been under threat.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/bolton-science-teacher-arrested-by-counterterrorism-officers-over-syria-links-9045061.html

Islamic cleric linked to U.S. charter schools involved in Turkey’s political drama

December 26, 2013

By Valerie Strauss

 

A Muslim cleric who lives in seclusion in Pennsylvania and has been linked to a network of more than 135 public charter schools in the United States is believed to be deeply involved in the political drama that is unfolding in his home country of Turkey.

The reclusive cleric is Fethullah Gulen, who has been linked to charter schools in some 25 states and to other schools in dozens of countries around the world. Gulen, who has denounced terrorism and is said to believe in a moderate form of Islam, has lived in Pennsylvania for years. Gulen was until recently a close ally of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government has been deeply shaken by a corruption investigation.  The prime ministerjust replaced three of his key ministers after they were forced to resign in the scandal.

According to the Associated Press:

The corruption probe is one of the biggest political challenges Erdogan has faced since his Islamic-based party narrowly escaped being disbanded in 2008 for allegedly undermining Turkey’s secular Constitution…. Erdogan has denounced the investigation as a plot by foreign and domestic forces to thwart his country’s prosperity and discredit his government ahead of local elections in March. His government has won three elections since 2002 on the strength of the economy and a promise to fight corruption.

Turkish commentators believe the probe is fallout from an increasingly public feud and power struggle between Erdogan’s government and an influential U.S.-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, whose followers are believed to have a strong foothold within Turkey’s police and judiciary. The two men, without naming each other, have been engaged in a war of words since the corruption probe was launched on Dec. 17.

The New York Times reported in this story that the corruption and bribery probe is widely believed to be under the control of Gulen followers, and it described the “powerful Muslim preacher” as being in command of “a network of businessmen, media outlets and schools as well as officials within Turkey’s police and judiciary. Gulen has denied involvement in the probe in Turkey, in which 24 have been formally charged, including the sons of two ministers in Erdogan’s government as well as the manager of the state-owned Halkbank.

Gulen has lived in the United States for many years. According to this Philadelphia Inquirer story, Gulen filed a lawsuit in 2007 in U.S. District Court seeking permission to live in the country legally after being denied a special visa by U.S. officials. In the suit his lawyers identified him as “head of the Gulen Movement” and an important education leader who had “overseen” the creation of a network of schools in the United States and around the world. He got a green card in 2008 and lives on a secluded compound called the Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Center in rural Pennsylvania.

The public charter schools in what is unofficially known as the Gulen network are believed to be operated by people — usually Turks — in or associated with the Gulen movement.  The schools, many of them with strong academic records, have different names and many of them are geared toward science, math and technology education. In Texas, for example, Harmony charter schools are believed to be linked to the network.

Some of the problems commonly cited with Gulen-inspired schools have affected the Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School in Anne Arundel County, which is has a strong academic record but has run into troubles cited last year by then district superintendent Kevin Maxwell. Though Maxwell supported a continuance of the school’s charter, he  said in June 2012 that the school had to hire qualified and fully certified teachers, reform the board of directors “to reflect the community it serves,” use appropriate procurement and bidding processes for outside contracts, follow board policy for the hiring of foreign nationals, and agree not to allow any of its contractors or subcontractors to “knowingly employ” anybody who has been investigated for criminal activity.

The  operators of schools believed to be in the Gulen network always deny being connected to the preacher’s movement  but state and federal officials have conducted various investigations over the years into such links.

A Harmony charter school was just given approval by the D.C. Public Charter School Board to open in Washington D.C.  Theola Labbé-DeBose, a spokeswoman for the charter school board, said in an e-mail that  ”there was very little discussion” about any possible connections to Gulen during the board meeting when the school’s application was approved.

Early this year, the Loudoun County School Board denied an application by a group of Turkish men seeking to open a charter school there because of questions involving curriculum and other operational issues. The applicants said they were using the Anne Arundel school as a model but had trouble answering basic questions to the board members’ satisfaction. The school would have been the first charter school in Northern Virginia if it had been approved.

During the application process, the board held hearings at which one speaker, Mary Addi, testified that that she and her husband, Mustafa Emanet, had worked at a Gulen charter school in Ohio, which was opened in Dayton with the help of one of the Loudoun charter applicants, Fatih Kandil. She said her husband, a Turk, had been been involved in the Gulen movement and that Turkish teachers at the Ohio school had to turn over 40 percent of their salaries to a secret fund used by the movement. Last January, during the hearings,  I asked Sinan Yildirim, listed as one of the members of the proposed school’s initial governing board, whether he and his fellow applicants are connected to Gulen and he answered: “We said no. They said yes. If they claim something they have to prove. And they can’t prove it.”

The FBI and the Departments of Labor and Education have  investigated whether some employees at some of these schools are “kicking back part of their salaries” to the Gulen Movement, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in this storyThe New York Times andCBS News as well as PBS have reported on the Gulen charter network, citing problems such as whether these schools give special preference to Turkish companies when handing out contracts.

Earlier this month, the FBI sent agents into the Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School in Baton Rouge, which is believed to have Gulen ties, according to this story on Nola.com, which reported that the agents left with boxes of unidentified material. According to the Web site, the school’s officials have denied any Gulen connection, but it said that “in 2011, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune reported that Pelican Educational Foundation, the nonprofit group that runs Kenilworth, does have various connections to the movement.”

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/12/26/islamic-cleric-linked-to-u-s-charter-schools-involved-in-turkeys-political-drama/

School children as young as 8 told they would be labelled ‘racist’ for missing school trip

November 22, 2013

 

Parents have criticised a school after children as young as eight were told they would be punished for racism if they did not attend a religious workshop about Islam. Angry mums and dads were sent a letter by Littleton Green Community School, in Huntingdon, Staffordshire, warning their children would be considered racist if they did not go on the school trip.

The visit to Staffordshire University – for Year 4 and Year 6 pupils – had been arranged as part of the children’s “cultural education” on November 27. Headteacher Lynn Small wrote to parents and said if kids did not attend a “racial discrimination note” would be made on the pupil’s records and would remain there for their school careers. On top of that, they were also ordered to pay £5 towards the cost of the trip.

Parents have criticised the school’s “ludicrous” threats and accused the school of trying to blackmail them. Stacy Waldron, 26, who has an eight-year-old daughter at the school, said: “I feel my child will be racist if I don’t allow her to go. “This is my choice, not hers, and she shouldn’t have to pay for it.”

Mum-of-four Tracy Ward added: “I was shocked by the letter. To be told my kids have got to attend this workshop is disgusting. “Everyone should have a choice but that’s my opinion and I don’t want a stain on my kids’ record as a result. “They are not old enough to be called racist.”

Her sister Donna, whose daughter also attends the school, said: “It’s not our religion. We should have a right to stop our children going.”

Around 100 pupils across four years were expected to take part in the course – which would have involved them being shown Islamic artefacts. But after parents contacted the school they were then forced to make an embarrassing U-turn and withdraw the threat after council chiefs intervened.

South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson slammed the original move – labelling it “bonkers”. He said: “The idea of attaching a ‘racial discrimination note’ to children’s education records saying it will remain on their file for the duration for their school career seems unfair, particularly when it is no the child’s decision whether or not he or she attends.

Defending the decision Mrs Small said that exposing the pupils to other faiths was part of the school’s statutory duty. She said: “We are a mainly Christian school, but we have to cover at least one other religion as part of the national curriculum. This visit is part of that. “They would not be taking part in any religious practices. We have had similar workshops on a variety of religions in the past – including one on Islam with no problems at all and the children have absolutely loved it. “We have pupils and teachers at the school who belong to the Islam faith and it is right for the children to understand and appreciate their faith as well as their own.”

A spokesperson for Staffordshire County Council said: “This is a school matter and the council was only contacted once the letter had been sent.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10468353/School-children-as-young-as-8-told-they-would-be-labelled-racist-for-missing-school-trip.html

‘Sanctimonious little prigs’: Richard Dawkins wades into row as LSE atheist society ‘banned from wearing satirical Jesus and Prophet Mohamed T-shirts’

The London School of Economics is embroiled in an increasingly bitter fight over free speech, after members of its atheist society were forced to cover up satirical T-shirts depicting Jesus and Prophet Mohamed at a Freshers’ fair on Thursday. Security guards and SU officers threatened two representatives of LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Student society with expulsion after several students complained about the shirts, which featured characters from the popular “Jesus and Mo” web comic.

 

Abishek Phadnis and Chris Moos at first refused to remove their shirts, as well as certain literature, from their stall. They were eventually confronted by a representative of LSE’s legal and compliance team, and its head of security, and told that the T-shirts were creating an “offensive atmosphere” and could constitute “harassment” – and that they were not behaving in an “orderly or responsible manner”.

 

The two students complied, but in a subsequent written statement denied “in the strongest possible terms” that they were trying to harass other students. Adding that: “As much as we respect and defend the rights of others to wear whatever they choose to wear, we claim this right for ourselves. Our right to free expression and participation in the LSE student community is being curtailed for no other reason than that we are expressing views that are not shared by others.”

 

Jay Stoll LSESU’s general secretary hit back, insisting that the t-shirts had been “provocative”, and confirming that they’d received a number of complaints. Expressing the commitment of LSE to promoting freedom of expression and is known for its public events and wide range of speakers. In this instance, it was judged that the actions of the students were undermining what should have been a welcoming and inclusive event.

 

Stephen Evans, of the National Secular Society, said: “There is something very disturbing about the curtailing of free speech on university campuses simply on the grounds of claimed offence. Being offended from time to time is the price you pay for living in an open and free society. If any religion is off-limits for open debate we are in a very dangerous situation.”

 

Richard Dawkins waded into the row on Friday, describing the SU reps as “sanctimonious little prigs”. He tweeted: “I’m “offended” by backwards baseball caps, chewing gum, niqabs, “basically” and “awesome”. Quick, LSE Student Union, ban them all.”