High School History Project: Design Muslim Prayer Rug, Recite First Pillar of Islam

Histories of Judaism and Christianity absent from textbook

A Seminole County, Florida high school world history teacher sent an assignment home with students instructing them to design a Muslim prayer rug and recite the first Pillar of Islam: "There is no god, but Allah, and Muhammed is his prophet."

One upset parent, Ron Wagner, said his son showed him the lesson on Islam from his world history textbook and a text from the teacher reminding him to make the rug. The father was shocked to find out that his son was learning "so extensively" about religion. 

"For it to be mandatory and part of the curriculum and in the textbooks, didn't seem right," Wagner told local WFTV in an interview. "I could not understand how there would be an exception for this particular religion at the same time we have obvious bans on…prayer being taught in school."

Wagner's son explained to his father that in the class, the teacher wrote the first Pillar of Islam on the board and had students recite it aloud. Some students refused to say it; the teacher asked for full participation and had them recite it again. A friend of the family takes the same class during a different period and confirmed that it was happening in other classes as well.

When Wagner confronted school officials with his protests, they indicated to him that they did not see a problem in the curriculum, nor how it was being taught.

Wagner describes himself as non-religious but was surprised to find out that the chapters on Christianity were missing from his son's textbook. He said: "I find it interesting that the first nine chapters, which did include the teachings of the rise of Christianity, were all absent, whether they were intentionally removed from the book or if it was a defective book. However at the beginning of the school year, my son said, 'We started right in on the chapter -- the 32-page chapter -- of Islam.'

Wagner wondered if the tables were turned and the chapter on Islam was missing, would the school have allowed the textbook to be used in the classroom? He reasoned that if the school was teaching The Lord's Prayer or the Ten Commandments, an atheist group would sue the school and the teacher would be reprimanded. "It would not stand a chance," Wagner said. He added, "It would be cut and dry and over with." 

The other point of concern for Wagner was the fact that this teacher broke protocol and sent the assignment via text to his son rather than the more typical e-mail to parents. "The fact that this is the only teacher that communicated with my son, directly to his cell phone, gave me the impression that by doing so, would cut us as parents out of the loop," Wagner said.

At this point, Wagner took his concerns to the district's superintendent who then began an investigation. It was determined that a "manufacturer defect" left 68 copies of a one-year-old set of textbooks without the chapters on Christianity, as well as Judaism. There was no answer as to why the textbook was allowed to be used anyway. Wagner remains unsatisfied with the district's investigation.

The head of high school curriculum for the district, Dr. Michael Blasewitz, told Wagner that the Pillars of Islam were "benchmarks in the state curriculum." WFTV went to ask Blasewitz if he planned on changing the curriculum, but he stormed out, saying children are taught Judaism doctrine and and the Bible in earlier school years. Blasewitz offered this explanation, "If anything, it's a little imbalanced toward Christianity and Judaism."