After a teacher at a Virginia school handed out a standard homework assignment on Islam, such an angry backlash flooded in that it prompted officials to close every single county school as a safety precaution.
"While there has been no specific threat of harm to students, schools and school offices will be closed Friday, December 18, 2015," Augusta County Schools said. Extracurricular activities were shut down Thursday afternoon. And social media exploded over the school lesson -- a simple drawing assignment -- into a caustic discussion about religion and education.
The homework reads:
"Here is the shahada, the Islamic statement of faith, written in Arabic. In the space below, try copying it by hand. This should give you an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy."The illustrative classical Arabic phrase was the basic statement in Islam. It translated to: "There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is the messenger of Allah."
When students took it home, it was like a spark hitting a powder keg. Some of their parents saw the homework as an attempt to convert their children to Islam.
Calls and emails flooded the school. Some of them demanded the teacher be fired for assigning it.
However the county school system reacted.
It removed the shahada from world religion instruction. "A different, non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy will be used in the future," it said.