Seventh grade students at a West Virginia middle school were given packets of work wherein they were instructed to write their submission to Allah as their one true god in Arabic calligraphy.
According to The Christian Post, a worksheet in a homework packet handed to students "instructs students to practice calligraphy by copying the Arabic form of the Shahada by hand." The Shahada "is the Islamic profession of faith that declares belief in one true God and Muhammad being a messenger of God."
Mountain Ridge Middle School student Brielle Penkoski brought the work packet home and showed her father, Rich Penkoski, a Christian who runs an online ministry.
"I saw the assignment of writing the Shahada in Arabic. Their excuse was calligraphy," the enraged father 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.'"
According to Brielle, the assignment was mandatory and she would receive a consequence if she left it uncompleted.
"I said, 'That is not happening. My daughter is not doing that,'" Penkoski said. "My daughter told me that if she didn't do the assignment then she was going to get a [detention] slip."
Horrified over the assignment from Katherine Hinson, his daughter's teacher, Mr. Penkoski immediately contacted the school's principal, Ron Branch, who contends Hinson never actually assigned the work packet, but that it was "optional."
"There were two calligraphy activities in the packet," Branch wrote in an email. "One involving the Shahada and one that is just English letters in which the students can write whatever they want in calligraphy," Branch explained. "The teacher told the students that they could do these activities if they wanted. I told Mr. Penkoski that the calligraphy activity was optional, but was not assigned. They are reading through the packet as part of the study. The teacher has told her class several times that this is a study of world religions and that she is not trying to advocate for any religion over another. She has told her class that if they had questions about religious beliefs, that those conversations should take place with their parents."
Penkoski, citing past homework assignments concerning Christianity and Judaism, believes the school is merely backtracking and calling the work "optional" only in light of his complaint.
"Why would they print all that out and then tell them they don't have to do it?" he 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."
"If it was optional, then why was there no option for comparison for Judaism and Christianity? There was no option to recite any of the Lord's Prayer and Ten Commandments. There was no option to write Hebrew," Penkoski continued. "Why is it only Islam?"
"I am curious why the other ones were not optional and the Islamic one was optional," he added. "It only seemed to be optional after I raised objection."
Branch pushed back: "The units on Judaism and Christianity were about a week-and-a-half. Each of the other units should take about a week. Jesus was taught," he claimed. "The students read the chapter in our textbook that discusses Christianity's belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and salvation. They also discussed the Sermon on the Mount, the Last Supper and Jesus' Betrayal, the Trinity, and the Lord's Prayer, among other topics."
In the packets on Christianity and Judaism there were "no Bible verses, no reciting the Ten Commandments or the Lord's Prayer," noted Penkoski. "[There's] no practicing writing in Hebrew as compared to the Islamic packet."
"It's one thing to talk about secular, but they cross the line with Islam because they went from the secular aspect of it to the faith aspect of it," he said. "Let's be honest, if they had come home with the Lord's Prayer, we would have atheists suing all over the place."