Students' Ramadan-fast assignment protested
Immigrants who fled persecution rally to tell 'truth about Islam'
Posted: November 25, 2003
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Art Moore
-Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ 2003 WorldNetDaily.com
Hundreds of Christians who fled Egypt to the United States claiming persecution under Islam showed up outside a Southern California middle school yesterday to protest an extra-credit assignment urging students to participate in the Muslim Ramadan fast.
The teacher at Royal Oak Intermediate School in Covina, Calif., wrote parents of students in his world history class, saying he wanted to take advantage of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan "to promote a greater understanding and empathy towards the Muslim religion."
But on a public sidewalk adjacent to the school grounds yesterday afternoon, about 500 people, according to organizers, gathered peacefully to "tell the truth about Islam" as classes ended for the day.
A group called the American Middle-East Christian Association maintains that at a time when discussions about Jesus Christ have been barred from classrooms, the teacher is urging impressionable school children to participate in a religion the group views as a threat to America.
Ultimately, the protesters maintained, the teaching of Islam in a public school is furthering the aim of making America a Muslim nation.
About 450 of the protestors were Coptic Christian immigrants from Muslim-majority Egypt, whose families had suffered discrimination and persecution because of their faith, said Steve Klein, who helped organize the event.
"Many of them were in tears, thrilled that they could come out and assert their First Amendment free-speech rights, which are found in no Islamic nation," Klein told WorldNetDaily. "They had survived 14 centuries in Egypt by not getting involved in politics."
The public school is in the Charter Oak School District in a mostly middle- class area at the east end of the San Gabriel Valley.
Superintendent John Roach insisted the teacher meant only to promote empathy with Muslims, not with Islam.
He conceded the instructor told parents in his letter the assignment was about empathizing with the Islamic religion.
"If I had the opportunity to correct the letter before it was sent out, I would have changed that paragraph," he told WND.
Roach said he most certainly would have put a stop to the assignment if it had been about promoting Islam and can understand why some people would make an issue of it.
The letter to parents said students "may choose to fast for one, two or three days. During this time, students may only drink water during daylight hours. Once fasting is completed, students are to type a -+ page summary of their experience. They should describe how it felt to go without food during the day and connect it to the theme of sacrifice. Fasting is inconvenient and sometimes uncomfortable, many religions to consider it an important sacrifice."
The teacher said he wished "to emphasize that this is an EXTRA CREDIT assignment and is by no means mandatory. For those unable to fast, they may choose to type a 2 page paper in which they compare different religions that encourage sacrifice during the year."
Roach went over to the school, which has about 1,600 students, to observe the protest yesterday and estimated the number of protesters to be about 150.
"If in fact we had been inculcating one religion over another, I'm thrilled that there were 150 people who recognize that that's what schools should not be doing," said Roach.
But the official said he was "saddened" that organizers would mobilize all those people to "believe what we're doing is training the next generation of al-Qaida."
Roach noted, however, the protest was peaceful and orderly.
The Coptic Christians passed out literature and talked to many parents about their personal experience of persecution under Islam, Klein said, warning passersby that Islam is here to take over America.
"Many parents were very curious," Klein said. "They were stunned by what their kids were being taught."
One parent objected to the protest, he said, but "changed his tune" after the immigrants told their stories.
Many of the Coptic Christians who showed up are articulate professionals, such as dentists and physicians, said Klein, a former Marine officer who served in Vietnam.
After seeing how the First Amendment works, he noted, they said they need to get together and organize to tell their message further.
"These people who have suffered have so much to offer [Americans] who are sleeping, refusing to recognize the true nature of Islam," said Klein, who said he has organized hundreds of protests, including many that have confronted Islam, through a group he established called Courageous Christians United.
Roach said he's been contacted by some of the Coptic Christians.
"Several people have called me on the phone and spoken to me, wanting to make sure I'm teaching the Islamic religion is a murderous, terrorist religion," he said.
But the superintendent argued, if he were to teach that, he would be "just as guilty as I would be if I went the other way."
"I can't impede a religion any more than I can promote it," he said.
The teacher's letter to parents opened, "As part of the world history curriculum, your student has recently been studying the rise of Islam and the teachings of Mohammed. Fundamental to the Muslim religion are the Five Pillars of Islam. They emphasize the 'word of God,' prayer, charity for the poor, fasting and the pilgrimage to Mecca. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims refrain from food or drink during daylight hours."
Roach insisted the seventh-grade class presents a balanced view of Islam, covering mostly the social implications of the religion's rise, as part of a world history curriculum that begins with the Roman Empire.
As WorldNetDaily reported in January 2002, public school students at Excelsior Elementary School in Byron, Calif., apparently were taken on a deeper journey into Islam in which they pretended to be Muslims, wore robes, simulated jihads via a dice game, learned the Five Pillars of Faith and memorized verses from the Quran in classroom exercises as part of a World History and Geography class for seventh-graders. The class was included in the state's curriculum standards required by the state board of education. These standards outline what subjects should be taught and are included in state assessment tests, but don't mandate how they're to be taught.
The Islam simulations at Excelsior are outlined in the state-adopted textbook "Across the Centuries," published by Houghton Mifflin, which prompts students to imagine they are Islamic soldiers and Muslims on a Mecca pilgrimage.