Thursday, September 16, 2010

A scandal in Wellesley

Charles Jacobs

Many of my liberal Jewish friends react negatively to religious Christians and especially to any attempt by Christians to insert religion – prayer in particular – into the public square. Jews generally have had a phobia about Christians proselytizing in public schools; it’s a reasonable fear given the history of European Christian attempts to convert the Jews to accept Christ as their savior. How would Jews react to the news that on a visit by public school students to a church, the priest invited them to join him in prayer? Imagine the outrage from the ACLU, the ADL and First Amendment activists. Imagine the reaction from our civic, political and religious leaders. What would the Globe headline be?

Well, in a way, we are about to find out – except the real incident did not take place in a church, but in the Saudifunded mega-mosque in Roxbury, Boston.

In late May, Wellesley Middle School students visited the controversial mosque run by the Muslim American Society. As time came for the Muslim mid-day prayer, the students were separated by gender, and the boys were asked to join the Muslim adults in prayer. Several of the public school boys took part. They stood with the Muslim men at the mosque and then, along with them, bowed and prostrated themselves with their heads touching the floor in the traditional Muslim prayer ritual.

None of the public school teachers who were escorting the boys intervened.

The school asked parents for written permission for children to visit the mosque – to study its architecture and to give the students “an authentic experience” by observing Islamic religion first hand.

According to a parent escort, a mosque spokesperson gave a presentation that distorted history and sought to make Islam’s past appealing to modern sensibilities. The presentation was far from “educational.” To this parent, it seemed to come close to proselytizing.

Quote: “At the time of Prophet Muhammad women were allowed to express their opinions and vote. In this country women didn’t get that right until less than a hundred years ago.”

In reality, 7th century Arabia at the time of Muhammad was a theocracy, and Muhammad was a supreme ruler who claimed divine sanction from Allah. No one, not even men, were allowed to vote, and in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia today, both men and women have few political rights. Indeed, women still aren’t even allowed to drive. But it’s not surprising that the Bostonmosque would seek to minimize the oppression of Saudi women – more than half of the mosque’s final $15 million price tag was paid by donors living in Saudi Arabia.

Next, the students were told that “holy war” is a false definition of jihad and that it actually only refers to an internal “personal struggle” to improve character. But scholars identify more than 100 violent verses in the Koran that seem to define jihad as an armed struggle in the name of Allah against “unbelievers.” For the past 25 years, we have seen radical Muslims call for jihad against Russia, Israel, India, Southern Sudan and America.

How can this happen? How many public school children are being invited to pray in mosques and taught that women under Mohammed were freer than under Theodore Roosevelt?

We know that across the country, there are reports of radical Islamic groups targeting schools to engage in dawa, which literally means “proselytizing for Islam,” by taking advantage of poorly considered social studies curricula and ideologically driven “educational” non-profits.

One such Dawa organization, Dawa Net, even offers a helpful guide for proselytizing in public schools, noting that students are “receptive to new ideas” and that “schools are therefore fertile grounds where the seeds of Islam can be sowed inside the hearts of non-Muslim students.”

Indeed, the Boston mosque’s top donor and trustee, Walid Fitaihi, has boasted about the increase of proselytizing opportunities in Boston. There definitely seem to be many such opportunities.

So will my liberal friends be outraged by this? Or will they continue to make apologies, denying the obvious so as not to undermine their politically correct narrative?

It will be most interesting to see what the ACLU will do: Its New England education director, Nancy Murray, is a strong supporter of the Muslim American Society. Will principle and integrity trump ideology?

In any case, this incident is a wakeup call for schools and elected officials. Our schools must provide honest and unbiased teachings about Islam and take a more vigilant approach in screening for extremist groups like the MAS, which might use educational trips to proselytize to our public school students.

We call on Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and responsible school officials to launch an investigation into the relationship between the Roxbury mosque and Massachusetts public schools, as well as to take immediate corrective action.

Moreover, Wellesley Middle School principal Joshua Frank, Wellesley School Superintendent Bella Wong, and the town’s School Committee and Board of Selectmen need to investigate this incident, hold those responsible accountable and ensure that it will never happen again.

Charles Jacobs is president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance.

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