It’s heartbreaking that Islamophobia is wreaking havoc on society, and it’s even more troubling that it’s entering our classrooms.
The Catholic Diocese of Orlando, Florida, has taken disciplinary action against a teacher at a Catholic school who gave his six-grade students an anti-Muslim reading assignment, The Huffington Post reports.
Religion and social studies teacher Mark Smythe handed out a 19th century reading that denounces Islam by referring to it as a “monstrous mixture” of faiths and calling the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad “ridiculous, immoral, and corrupting.”
Although it is unclear what consequences Smythe faced for distributing this inappropriate material, the associate superintendent, Jacquelyn Flanigan, released a statement announcing he had been “reprimanded.”
“We have spoken to the principal of Blessed Trinity Catholic School, Ocala and to the teacher in question and have reprimanded the teacher for this unfortunate exhibit of disrespect,” Flanigan said.
According to The Huffington Post, a mother of one of the students sent the text to a friend who then submitted it to the publication’s “Documenting Hate” project.
The material is believed to be an excerpt from text written in 1853 by priest Giovanni Bosco.
The controversial document describes Muhammad as a “charlatan,” “villain,” “ignoramus,” “imposter,” and “false prophet,” among other insulting and cruel remarks.
Flanigan noted in her statement that “the information provided in the sixth grade class is not consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
In addition to the fact that the text promotes unfavorable views of Islam, the content is incredibly outdated and does not reflect the warmer attitude that Catholic leaders have expressed toward Muslims in the centuries since Bosco’s words were written.
“I take pride to quote the words of John Paul II in speaking of Islam in 1985,” wrote Rabbi David Kaiman of the Congregation B’nai Israel in Gainesville in an email to the school. “’[There] are the important differences which we can accept with the humility and respect, in mutual tolerance; this is a mystery about which, I am certain, God will one day enlighten us.’”
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Teachers throughout the country have been ousted for distributing racist and Islamophobic material to students, as well as verbally expressing anti-Muslim sentiments to their students.
The issue became a huge matter of national concern back in 2015 when Ahmed Mohamed, also known as “Clock Kid,” was humiliated and arrested at school for building a homemade clock that his teacher presumed to be a bomb.
The problem has only continued amid the ongoing anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies promoted by President Donald Trump and his administration, prompting teachers to threaten their Muslim students with deportation. One Oklahoma teacher even wrote on Facebook that he supported Trump because he wanted Muslims to be “butchered.”
We cannot allow the normalization of this hate to continue, especially when it’s threatening the safety and stability of our youth. We can only hope that this so-called teacher, Smythe, is removed from the classroom indefinitely.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Flickr, Alan Levine