Middle school parents in Tennessee are voicing concern with the Maury County School District after they discovered that their students were instructed to write "Allah is the only god" in order to translate the Islamic pillar of creed for a world history project.
After Brandee Porterfield's seventh-grade daughter brought home her Five Pillars of Islam project that she completed for her history class, which included the translation of the pillar of "Shahada" as being "There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah," Porterfield complained to officials at Spring Hill Middle School.
Although Porterfield does not object to her child being taught details on the Islamic religion, she does oppose the fact that her daughter's history unit has not yet taught her about theological components of Christianity or Judaism. Porterfield believes that the state mandated history curriculum's overexposure to Islam is tantamount to state sponsorship of Islam.
"It really did bother me that they skipped the whole chapter on the rise of Christianity and they spent three weeks just studying Islam," Porterfield told Fox News.
"But what really did bother me, because I understand that Islam needs to be discussed in history, was that they did this assignment where they wrote out the Five Pillars of Islam, including having the children learn and write the Shahada, which is the Islamic conversion creed."
"I don't know if I would consider it an attack on Christianity, but they don't study any other religion to this extent," Porterfield continued. "I spoke with the teacher and the principal. They are not going to learn any other religion, doctrines or creeds and they are not going back over this chapter. Even though they discuss Christianity a little bit during the Middle Ages, they are not ever going to have this basis for Judaism or Christianity later."
After Porterfield's daughter told her teacher that she did not want to recite the Shahada or anything resembling "Allah is the only god," Porterfield told the Spring Hill Home Page that the teacher told her daughter that she would no longer have to recite or write the phrase.
Although Porterfield claims that the history unit spent all of three weeks going over Islam, Jan Hanvey, Maury County Public Schools' middle school supervisor, told the Columbia Daily Herald that most of the three-week unit discussed things like government, culture, geography and economics, not theology. Hanvey also stated that the chapters on Christianity and Judaism are scheduled to be taught at the end of the year with the "Age of Exploration" unit. They were not "skipped" over like Porterfield claimed.
Porterfield and other concerned Springhill parents will have the opportunity to voice their concerns about the state's history curriculum as a meeting with teachers and administrators is set for Sept. 17.
Joy Ellis, another parent of a seventh grader at Spring Hill, asserts that Christian children should not be instructed to write the Shahada.
"This is a seventh grade state standard, and will be on the TCAP," Ellis told the Spring Hill Home Page. "I didn't have a problem with the history of Islam being taught, but to go so far as to make my child write the Shahada, is unacceptable."
Maury County Director of Schools, Chris Marczak, defended the curriculum in a statement, saying that the school system is in no way endorsing Islam over other religions or trying to "indoctrinate" students.
"Our teachers work together to make sure that our students are learning what is expected through the Tennessee academic standards. For this last section on the Islamic world this past week, our educators had students complete an assignment that had an emphasis on Islamic faith," Marczak said.
"The assignment covered some sensitive topics that are of importance to Islamic religion and caused some confusion around whether we are asking students to believe in or simply understand the religion. It is our job as a public school system to educate our students on world history in order to be ready to compete in a global society, not to endorse one religion over another or indoctrinate."
Despite Marczak's assertion that the curriculum is not endorsing Islam, Porterfield is still not convinced.
"I do think that because they are not doing any other religion studies. I do think it is the state sponsoring religion in schools. They are not going over anything else. So for the students to have to memorize this prayer, it does seem like it is indoctrination," Porterfield said. "Later on, I reviewed the state standards and the pacing guide for this class. They do have some studies on Hinduism, Buddhism and things like that, but they are not learning any other doctrines or creeds and that is what my concern was."