A Clash Over Teaching Islam to 7th Graders in Tennessee

State lawmakers, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and parents of Tennessee schoolkids are worried about the way children are learning about “the world of Islam” in a social studies course being taught in the state’s middle schools.

But dozens of Tennessee public school districts are using a form letter supplied by an attorney to resist efforts to tell parents and lawmakers everything they want to know about the course.

Among other things that bother parents, the kids are required to memorize the five pillars of Islam and are instructed to write “Allah is the only God,” according to WSMV-TV in Franklin, Tenn. One parent said more than 20 pages of her child’s social studies textbook is devoted to studying Islam.

That amounts to three weeks of classroom instruction, more time than is spent teaching the seventh-graders about Christianity.

“In all of the homework my children have ever brought home, I have never seen the level of detail about other religions,” said Laura Jones. “I was completely speechless.”

Congresswoman Blackburn is on the side of Jones and other outraged parents in this debate.

“There is a big difference between education and indoctrination,” Blackburn said in a statement released by her office.

"It is reprehensible that our school system has exhibited this double-standard, more concerned with teaching the practices of Islam than the history of Christianity. Tennessee parents have a right to be outraged and I stand by them in this fight.”

State Rep. Andy Holt is one of several Republicans in the Tennessee Legislature calling for an immediate review of how and why so much time is being spent on Islam in seventh-grade social studies.

“Tennesseans have seen the radical side of Islam, and many have grown skeptical of this ‘peaceful religion,’” Holt wrote on his blog.

“This ‘teaching’ also occurs while Tennessee students are simultaneously being told they cannot fly American flags and are being discouraged from praying while at school,” Holt complained. “Many of our children are not being taught the Ten Commandments in school, but instead the Five Pillars of Islam and the ‘Prophet’ Muhammad as a sovereign to Jesus Christ.”

But, Paul Galloway, the executive director of the American Center for Outreach, told USA Today that Blackburn and the parents of these middle-school kids being taught about Islam don’t understand that simply repeating the tenets of the Islamic religion won’t turn anyone into a Muslim.

He also said the word “Allah” in Arabic means “God.”

“So, Christians who speak Arabic use the word Allah to talk about God all the time,” Galloway explained. “There is a basic level of misunderstanding driving this fear and outrage.”

Perhaps. But this won’t help middle-school parents learn more about what is happening in the seventh-grade classrooms, or feel any better about their kids standing and reciting “Allah is God” every day.