A Christian parent in West Virginia has voiced outrage after his seventh-grade daughter brought home a packet from her social studies class this week that includes a page asking students to practice writing the Islamic declaration of faith in Arabic calligraphy.
Rich Penkoski, a conservative Christian who runs an online ministry called Warriors for Christ, contacted Principal Ron Branch at Mountain Ridge Middle School in Gerrardstown to voice his concerns about the packet on Islam that was given out as part of the class' world religions unit.
While the packet went into detail about the history of Islam, the prophet Muhammad and the five pillars of the religion, Penkoski was most upset with a worksheet toward the end of the packet that instructs students to practice calligraphy by copying the Arabic form of the Shahada by hand.
The Shahada, one of the pillars of Islam, is the Islamic profession of faith that declares belief in one true God and Muhammad being a messenger of God.
"I saw the assignment of writing the Shahada in Arabic. Their excuse was calligraphy," Penkoski told The Christian Post. "I was like, 'Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!' First of all, calligraphy was invented in China 3,000 years prior to Muhammad. The fact that they were trying to get my daughter to write that disturbed me.'"
"I said, 'That is not happening. My daughter is not doing that,'" Penkoski continued. "My daughter told me that if she didn't do the assignment then she was going to get a [detention] slip."
After contacting the school, Penkoski was told that the teacher, Katherine Hinson, did not actually assign the packet to the class to complete for a grade but simply printed it out and gave it to the class as an optional reading. However, the Penkoskis claim that the school is only now saying it is optional because they raised concerns.
"Why would they print all that out and then tell them they don't have to do it?" Penkoski asked. "When they were given a packet [on Christianity], which didn't go into that much detail, they did have to write an essay. So you're telling me they don't have to do it now that I called you on it? It makes no sense and it is not consistent."
Penkoski also claims that on Tuesday, the day after he voiced his complaint, his daughter came home with the same exact packet. Although certain areas of the packet were crossed off this time, Penkoski's daughter, Brielle, contends that the calligraphy assignment was still given to the class.
"The teacher told them they have to do that one," Rich Penkoski asserted. "I called the principal again."
"I said, 'This is not OK in asking my kid to write down the Shahada.' The teacher happened to walk-in and said she made it an option and that the kids didn't have to do it. My daughter conflicted that story and said, 'No, that is not what was said.' What was said was, 'Do the assignment and if you want to learn more about the Quran, ask your parents.'"