Islamic prayer lessons in Florida history class spark investigation

A Florida father is concerned that his son is learning more about Islam than he is of major past events in his high school history class — and that includes being taught Islamic prayers.

“There is no god, but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God,” concerned father Ron Wagner read to WFTV News channel 9.

That passage came from his son’s Seminole County 10th grade history book.

“Students were instructed to recite this prayer as the first Pillar of Islam, off of the board at the teacher’s instruction,” Wagner told the station. 

Wagner first got wind of what was going on when he noticed a text on his son’s phone reminding the teen to complete an assignment involving a prayer rug and study a handout on Islam for class.

“For it to be mandatory and part of the curriculum and in the textbooks, didn’t seem right,” Wagner said.

The text included a chapter titled “The Rise of Islam,” that contained scripture and prayers taken from the Quran.

Even more egregious for Wagner, who describes himself as being not very religious, is that 100 pages describing Judaism and Christianity were missing from the text. The district attributed that to a manufacturing error that affected about 70 other copies of the textbook.

WFTV reported:

According to Wagner, Dr. Michael Blasewitz, who oversees the high school curriculum, said, “The Pillars of Islam are benchmarks in the state curriculum.”

Wagner’s concerns prompted a district investigation that found the teacher never tried to indoctrinate or convert students.

Some other students interviewed by administrators said they were not required to recite the prayer aloud. They did discuss a video played during class about the religion, but Blasewitz got frustrated and stormed out when 9 Investigates asked whether the district is considering changes to the curriculum.

“You’re just going to walk away from our interview when we’re trying to get information,” investigative reporter Daralene Jones called out to him.

As expected, Florida’s chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations threw in its 2 cents, and sent this statement to the station:

In a diverse society, young people should be taught about a wide variety of beliefs, cultures and faiths, and particularly about a faith practiced by millions of Americans and more than one-fifth of the world’s population.

Denying all students access to vital information based on the biased political or religious agenda of Islam phobic groups or a handful of misinformed parents does a disservice to our school system, our state and our nation. History is not kind to those who censor information or ban books.

— Hassan Shibly, executive director

I keep wondering if a public school would be permitted to teach the Ten Commandments, Old Testament psalms or the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.

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