Newsletter #48 – Anti-Christian/Jewish Prayer Protected Speech in Tennessee Schools

“Please don’t let me be like the Christians or the Jews”, is the verse in the Al-Fatihah recited by any Muslim student who is excused from class to pray during the school day.  If this same student completes all five daily prayers, they will have recited the Al-Fatihah multiple times in the same day.

Authoritative Islamic scholars refer to the Al-Fatihah, the first chapter of the Quaran, as containing “the meanings of the entire Qur’an”.  The Al-Fatihah is considered so central to a Muslim’s prayer that if it is not recited, any and all other prayer is considered invalid.

A sampling of what some of Tennessee’s imams preach was addressed in Newsletter #47.  What they preach is a reflection of what they pray and it is reinforced each and every time the Al-Fatihah is recited:

“In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful,

All praise and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of all that exists,

the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful,

the Owner of the Day of Recompense.

You we worship, and You we ask for help.

Guide us to the straight path,

The way of those upon whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (that) of those who

earned your anger nor of those who went astray.”

Jews “earned your anger” and Christians are “those who went astray”

Ibn Kathir was a highly respected Muslim scholar (1301 CE – 1373 CE) credited with writing a commentary on the Quran that has been translated into several languages, including English.  This commentary titled “Tafsir al-Qur’an al-Adhim” is reported to be popular because it uses the hadiths (sayings of Muhammad) to help explain the Quran.  Ibn Kathir’s commentary explains the meaning of the last verse of the Al-Fatihah daily prayer that demeans and denounces Jews and Christians as follows:

“Not (the way) of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray, meaning:

These two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them. The path of the believers is knowledge of the truth and abiding by it. In comparison, the Jews abandoned practicing the religion, while the Christians lost the true knowledge. This is why `anger’ descended upon the Jews, while being described as `led astray’ is more appropriate of the Christians. Those who know, but avoid implementing the truth, deserve the anger, unlike those who are ignorant. The Christians want to seek the true knowledge, but are unable to find it because they did not seek it from its proper resources. This is why they were led astray. We should also mention that both the Christians and the Jews have earned the anger and are led astray, but the anger is one of the attributes more particular of the Jews.” Quran Surah (Sura) Fatihah Tafsir Ibn Kathir, (scroll down to see all highlighted sections towards the end)

School “anti-bullying” policies typically include harassment, intimidation, bullying and cyber-bullying and specifically address these actions directed at students because of religious identification.  For example:

Rutherford County Public Schools Policy 6.304– “Student Discrimination/Harassment and Bullying/Intimidation”

Discrimination/Harassment (Sexual, Racial, Ethnic, Religious)

Students shall be provided a learning environment free from sexual, racial, ethnic and religious discrimination/harassment. It shall be a violation of this policy for any employee or any student to discriminate against or harass a student through disparaging conduct or communication that is sexual, racial, ethnic or religious in nature.  Discrimination/harassment is defined as conduct, advances, gestures or words either written or spoken of a sexual, racial, ethnic or religious nature which:

1. Unreasonably interfere with the student’s work or educational opportunities; or

2. Create an intimidating, hostile or offensive learning environment;……

Students shall be provided a safe learning environment. It shall be a violation of this policy for any student to bully, intimidate or create a hostile educational environment for another student. Bullying and intimidation are defined as either physically harming a student or damaging his/her property, or knowingly placing the student in reasonable fear of such, or creating a hostile educational environment.

Nashville Public Schools Policy SP6.110 – “Bully and Harassment

Bullying – Conduct that meets one or more of the following criteria: (1) act directed at one or more individuals that is intended to harm or embarrass; (2) repeated over time; and (3) involves an imbalance of physical, emotional, or social power. Bullying may involve, but is not limited to, the following: unwanted teasing, threatening, intimidating behavior, cyberbullying, physical bullying, theft, sexual, religious, or racial harassment and public humiliation.

Harassment –Conduct that meets one or more of the following criteria: (1) act directed at one or more individuals that is received as harmful or embarrassing; (2) substantially interferes with educational opportunities, benefits, or programs of one or more individuals; (3) substantially affects the ability of an individual to participate in or benefit from the school district’s educational programs or activities by placing the individual in reasonable fear of physical harm or by causing emotional distress; (4) based on an individual’s actual or perceived distinguishing characteristic or is based on an association with another person who has or is perceived to have any distinguishing characteristics; (5) repeated over time and is severe, persistent, and pervasive; and (6) causes mental duress or psychological trauma to the bullied.

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A truly unbiased application of the anti-bullying policies would bar the Al-Fatihah’s overt anti-Christian and anti-Jewish dogma within the school environment even though it is executed under the color of religion.

Would a school’s anti-bullying/harassment/discrimination/intimidation policies permit the Al-Fatihah if the word “gay”, “homosexual” or “lesbian” were substituted for the references to Jews and Christians in the prayer?

For all the diversity training, conflict resolution, anti-bullying assemblies, etc which school districts spend time and money on, isn’t it antithetical to then allow certain students to recite religious doctrine that by its every word undermines these other efforts?

And what about the relationship between the Al-Fatihah foundational prayer and the narrative about Islam that is being sold to non-Muslim students in schools?  A narrative in fact, that the TN American Muslim Advisory Council’s (AMAC) Islamic Speakers Bureau has said it wants to populate in schools throughout Tennessee.

The Muslim American Center for Outreach (ACO), claims to stand against anything it deems “anti-Muslim”.  When the ACO organized the “Clergy for Tolerance” did they tell them that they pray every day, several times a day, that they will never be like these clergy?  Did the ACO tell the “Clergy for Tolerance” that it is solely a one-way street?

Is it appropriate for schools to side-step their policies and allow anti-Jewish and anti-Christian doctrine to be recited on school grounds, during the school day, simply because someone claims it is their religious right to do so?

 

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