To the Editor,
At the BOE meeting this week a group of organized Chatham residents addressed their concerns to the board regarding curriculum in the middle school. Essentially, they suggested that the school board was promoting the teachings of Islam and giving Christianity and Judaism short shrift. They believe that the 7th grade history class curriculum was putting too much emphasis on studying the Islamic faith which, they seemed to imply, was an attempt by the school district to suggest that Islam was in some way better than other religions.
Here are some quick facts. About 60 percent of Americans are Christian (Catholic and Protestant). About 20 percent don't practice any religion. About two percent practice Judaism. About 0.8 percent practice Islam. However in the rest of the world there are about two billion Christians, 1.5 billion Muslims, one billion non-believers, and one billion Hindus.
The school board understands something these parents haven't grasped. Given that less than one percent of our neighbors and friends practice the Islamic faith, and it is the second most poplar religion in the rest of the world, it is the responsibility of the school system, in the context of a class on world cultures, to emphasize this religion's importance in the rest of the world.
This understanding is particularly important in our current political climate. Foreigners, immigrants, and refugees are being vilified and discriminated against. Formerly taboo subjects like racism, xenophobia, sexual discrimination and religious intolerance - that were previously considered out of bounds in public discourse - are now being legitimized. Now more than ever such hate speech should be recognized and named for what it is: an attempt to undermine the multicultural fabric of our society.
I hope and trust that the Chatham Board of Education and the School District of the Chathams gives the concerns these parents are raising all the discussion they deserve. Which is none.