Students at Foster High School in Richmond got an, er, off-book lesson during an economics class last month. The teacher—whose name has not been released by the Lamar Consolidated ISD, which oversees the school—distributed an eight-page document called “Islam/Radical Islam (Did You Know)” to his class. As KHOU reports:
The handout does not list any sources, but claims things like: “38% of Muslims believe people that leave the faith [sic] should be executed” and that: “There are an estimated 190-300 million ‘radical Islam’ followers.”
The handout talks about Sharia Law, terrorism, jihad, even beheadings and “If taken hostage by radical Islamists, what to do.”
One of the students in the classroom was Muslim. Her parents contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who complained to the school.
CAIR’s Houston director told KHOU 11 News that the Foster HS principal confirmed what the teacher handed out, and said that he is not happy about it.
The document appears to be culled from various online sources that offer a number of subjective, inaccurate, and—not to mince words—deeply offensive opinions of the religion. From a purely educational standpoint, it’s downright bizarre: What teacher can get away with estimating the number of anything as “between 190–300 million”? That is, to put it mildly, quite a broad range.
Other parts of the document teach other curious (read: wrongheaded) lessons, as noted by the Council For American-Islamic Relations. The teacher’s pamphlet stated, “even though generally Islamic followers will say that they ‘believe’ in Jesus and respect Him and the Bible, in fact, neither is really true”; “Muhammad posed as a prophet . . . Both Jesus and Paul warned that after they were gone many false prophets would come. Muhammad is simply one of them.”
The full text of the document isn’t available. Conservative blog The Blaze has some cropped screenshots of a few sections, though, and from that we can assume that the text of the “If taken hostage by radical Islamists, what to do” section comes from a November 2014 post on ForeignPolicy.com entitled “The 10 things you need to know about radical Islamist beheadings: A primer” by Robert J. Bunker. In it, Bunker writes:
Being taken captive was most likely a fatal mistake in itself; the United States does not negotiate with terrorists or pay them ransoms. So the question you must ask yourself is on what terms you intend to die; being compliant or combative with your captors. A number of instances exist in which the hostage utterly ruined a beheading video by either refusing to read the propaganda and/or struggled with their captives on film (an unbound Italian hostage in 2004 jumped up, tried to remove his hood, and proclaimed to his captors that ‘this is how an Italian dies’) which negated much of the propaganda value of the incident. The trade-off for being combative, of course, is that the hostage—while serving United States and allied national interests—is probably going to suffer additional abuse and torture as a result of their intransigence and patriotism. Quite likely, the recent Kassig post beheading video from a few days ago was devoid of him reading a radical Islamist statement because the former U.S. Army Ranger defied IS terrorist propaganda demands to the end.
Which is to say, as far as “how to” instructions go, it’s not exactly the most practical advice for teens.
No Houston-area teens have been abducted by radical Islamists, of course, so the utility of this special class is questionable to begin with. What’s even more questionable, though, is the way that the school district has handled the incident.
We can laugh about the absurdity of some of the “lessons” that the teacher included in his document, but they’re not really funny: telling teenagers that “[Muslims believe] all governments—except Islam—should be overthrown” and that “even though generally Islamic followers will say that they ‘believe’ in Jesus and respect Him and the Bible, in fact, neither is really true” is not only inaccurate, it’s essentially calling on Christian students who don’t want their government overthrown and their holy books disrespected to carry out a jihad of their own.
Still, the school district has taken measures to soft-pedal the reaction to the unnamed teacher’s lesson. For one thing, they’ve protected his identity. For another, their statement about it is very bland, talking about being “disappointed to learn one teacher made independent changes to a lesson plan, resulting in information being given that didn’t follow subject matter, or state and local curriculum plans,” as if spreading hateful misinformation to students at a public high school is the equivalent to teaching a shortcut to solving a proof in geometry class.
In any case, we can only hope that the students in the class—especially the Muslim students, who could quite reasonably feel targeted by the document—have learned that the ideas of one of their teachers shouldn’t be taken seriously. It’s a curious lesson for kids to be getting in school, but it’s probably one that will serve them well in the future nonetheless.