Eagle editorial: Islam flap a cultural lesson

So public school administrators now must worry about something on a wall being photographed and then uploaded for cultural warriors everywhere to see, misunderstand and condemn. That’s chilling and sad.

Officials probably had no choice Monday but to remove the display at Wichita’s Minneha Core Knowledge Magnet Elementary School that sparked the viral firestorm, a bulletin board showing the Five Pillars of Islam. After an image of it was posted on a Facebook page titled “Prepare to Take America Back,” with a false claim that the school had “banned all forms of Christian prayer,” the bulletin board surely became too much of a distraction within the school to serve its intended educational purpose.

A PJ Media blog post asked: “First, why would a school in the middle of the Bible Belt present something like this? Second, will they give the same pride of place to Christianity? Judaism? Mormonism? Zoroastrianism? Third, where is the ACLU? . . . Why are they not hammering Minneha Core Knowledge Magnet Elementary School for this outrageous promotion of religion?”

The truth is that, in context, the bulletin board fit perfectly into the core knowledge curriculum’s study of the five major religions of the world – Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. The point was not to promote religion but to serve fourth-grade social studies this fall.

The conservative fuss over the bulletin board is especially remarkable because Minneha came by its core knowledge magnet focus 15 years ago through a political alliance of conservative parents and the local teachers union. Core knowledge is based on the concept that all students must know a set of culturally common ideas to succeed in college and life.

For many of the critics, of course, the problem isn’t that a bulletin board would cover a religion practiced by 23 percent of the world’s population but that the religion is Islam – a faith unfairly tainted by the terrorist acts of extremists.

State Rep. Dennis Hedke, R-Wichita, told KansasWatchdog.org that he was “appalled” to learn of the Minneha display, and that “if you’re going to talk about Islam and make it sound like it’s another one of those religions that needs to be understood and contemplated by mankind, there’s a serious misunderstanding.”

No, the misunderstanding is all Hedke’s. As President Bush said so often and so well after Sept. 11, Islam as practiced by the vast majority of people is a peaceful religion that respects others.

In the end, the outrage over the image says far more about the markets for conservative cudgels to use against Islam and public schools than it does about the school or USD 259. Even with the bulletin board down for now, there is a valuable cultural lesson for Wichita students in all this.

For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman