A few years ago I was an expert witness in a case against the Byron Union School District in California, where public school students had been made to memorize and recite prayers and portions of the Qur'an, and to make affirmations of Islamic faith in the course of answering test questions -- questions would be worded "True or False: Muhammad is the messenger of Allah," instead of "True or false: Muslims believe that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah." But the parents who brought the suit lost the case; the court ruled that it was all just role play, a recognized pedagogical tool, and consequently was nothing to be concerned about.
The same controversy appears to be playing out in this case: was the teaching mandating prayer to Allah, or just leading students in a role-playing game? Officials here again say it was the latter, but some parents aren't so sure. And if it was just role play, why was the teacher fired?
"Teacher sacked after 'making pupils kneel and pray to Allah' during RE lesson," from the Daily Mail, May 29 (thanks to all who sent this in):
A teacher has been sacked after parents claimed that their children were forced to pray to Allah during a religious education lesson.
Alison Phillips was accused of giving two pupils detention after they refused to kneel down and 'pray to Allah' during the class.
However, an investigation by the school concluded that there was no truth in the allegation.
Parents were outraged after stories emerged that the two boys, aged 11, were allegedly punished for not wanting to take part in a practical demonstration of how Allah is worshipped.
They said children should not be forced to take part in the exercise, which included wearing Muslim headgear, was a breach of their human rights.
But governors at Alsager High School, near Stoke-on-Trent, denied Mrs Phillips made pupils pray or that two boys were put into detention for refusing to do so.
The school suspended the teacher last July after receiving complaints and a lengthy disciplinary process was carried out.
A statement released on behalf of the school by Cheshire East Council said: 'It can be confirmed that following a long and rigorous disciplinary process, a member of staff at Alsager School has been dismissed from her post.
'The member of staff was suspended in July 2008 following parental complaints and newspaper reports relating to an RE lesson.
'In reaching this decision, the governing body wish to make very clear that they were completely satisfied that at no point did that member of staff make children pray to Allah or put boys in detention for refusing to do so.
'The RE lesson in question contains an element of role play which complies with acceptable practice.'
At the time of the alleged incident, one parent - Sharon Luinen, said: 'This isn't right, it's taking things too far.
'Being asked to pray to Allah, who isn't who they worship, is wrong and what got me is that came away thinking they were being disrespectful.'
Another parent, Karen Williams, said: 'I am absolutely furious and I don't find it acceptable.
'I haven't got a problem with them teaching my child other religions and a small amount of information doesn't do any harm.
'But not only did they have to pray, the teacher had gone into the class and asked them watch a short film and then said "we are now going out to pray to Allah".'
The grandfather of one of the pupils in the class added: 'It's absolutely disgusting, there's no other way of putting it.'
Parents had claimed that their children were made to bend down on their knees on prayer mats which the teacher had got out of her cupboard.