SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - A history book used in school districts across the state is sparking controversy in Seminole County.
A parent called 9 Investigates after finding out his son was learning too much about the Islamic religion in a public classroom.
Ron Wagner read from part of his son's world history book, "There is no god, but God. Muhamad is the messenger of God."
Wagner is not reading the Five Pillars of Islam from the Quran, but rather his son's 10th-grade
world history book from Lyman High School.
"Students were instructed to recite this prayer as the first Pillar of Islam, off of the board at the teacher's instruction," Wagner claims.
Wagner, who is not religious, said he had no idea the public school was teaching so extensively about religion until he spotted a text on his son's phone from a teacher reminding him to complete a prayer rug assignment and study an Islam packet.
"For it to be mandatory and part of the curriculum and in the textbooks, didn't seem right," Wagner said.
Inside of the book is a chapter dedicated to the "Rise of Islam," including prayers and scriptures from the Quran. What's more disturbing for Wagner is that the first 100 pages discussing Judaism and Christianity are missing. The district blames a manufacturer defect in 68 books that are only a year old.
According to Wagner, Dr. Michael Blasewitz, who oversees the high school curriculum, said, "The Pillars of Islam are benchmarks in the state curriculum."
Wagner's concerns prompted a district investigation that found the teacher never tried to indoctrinate or convert students.
Some other students interviewed by administrators said they were not required to recite the prayer aloud. They did discuss a video played during class about the religion, but Blasewitz got frustrated and stormed out when 9 Investigates asked whether the district is considering changes to the curriculum.
"You're just going to walk away from our interview when we're trying to get information," said investigative reporter Daralene Jones.
Before Blasewitz walked out, he further justified the curriculum, saying students learn specific Judaism doctrine, the Bible and its scriptures, in earlier school years.
"If anything, it's a little imbalanced toward Christianity and Judaism," Blasewitz said.
Federal law allows schools to teach about religion, because it's part of history. But public schools may not teach religion.
"There's a difference between teaching of the significance or the impact of a religion and teaching the specific tenets of a religion," Wagner said.
9 Investigates was told the district will reconsider this book when the contract is up in three years. Some districts in South Florida have requested the publisher rewrite portions because of the controversy.
WFTV received the following statement from the Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida:
"In a diverse society, young people should be taught about a wide variety of beliefs, cultures and faiths, and particularly about a faith practiced by millions of Americans and more than one fifth of the world's population.
"Denying all students access to vital information based on the biased political or religious agenda of Islam phobic groups or a handful of misinformed parents does a disservice to our school system, our state and our nation. History is not kind to those who censor information or ban books."
-- Hassan Shibly, executive director
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