The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group, is calling on people in Tennessee to oppose a bill that would prevent public schools from teaching the principles of Islam and every other religion until students reach the last three years of high school.
Republican Tennessee state legislator Sheila Butt proposed the bill late last week in response to a grassroots campaign across the state by parents — primarily evangelical parents — against what they perceive as an inappropriate focus on Islam in history and social studies courses in taxpayer-funded middle schools.
House Bill 1418, if it becomes law, would prevent the teaching of all “religious doctrine” until students reach 10th grade.
“I think that probably the teaching that is going on right now in seventh, eighth grade is not age appropriate,” Butt told the Tennessean newspaper. “They are not able to discern a lot of times whether its indoctrination or whether they’re learning about what a religion teaches.”
CAIR labeled Rep. Butt’s bill “an anti-Islam bill” which is “tied to Islamophobic claims” in a statement sent to The Daily Caller.
“The introduction of the bill is being fueled by rising hysteria over the false claim that middle schoolers are being subjected to ‘Islamic indoctrination’ because the basic tenets of Islam and Muslim world history is being taught as part of a state-approved curriculum about the impact world religions have on history.”
They added, “Islam is only one of the many world religions being taught in the curriculum that includes Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, among other religions and belief systems.”
CAIR government affairs manager Robert McCaw also weighed in.
“Islamophobes like Rep. Butt fail to recognize that there is a big difference between teaching students about religion as an important part of world history and promoting particular religious beliefs. The education of children in Tennessee should not be delayed because of anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Last month, parents across Tennessee become angry and expressed alarm when their children in a public middle school had to learn about the Five Pillars of Islam in a world history class that pointedly ignores Christianity, they say. The first and most important pillar is roughly translated as: “There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
State education officials have insisted that the Islam curriculum is purely secular and designed to inform students about history, and students also study Buddhism and Hinduism.
However, at no point do Tennessee middle school students directly study Christianity. There is not, for example, one class day dedicated to the basic Jesus story.
Maury County Public Schools middle school supervisor Jan Hanvey promised that students would eventually come across a reference to Christianity when history teachers reach the “Age of Exploration” in eighth grade. Then, students will hear about Christians persecuting other Christians in some countries in Western Europe.
In 2014, the United Arab Emirates officially designated 83 groups as terrorist organizations, including CAIR, which the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group in the United States.