A Texas high school has been accused of promoting Islam after a geography lesson led to the students wearing burqas in the classroom, causing complaints from parents.
At least five students at the Lumberton High School, about 90 minutes north of Houston, wore the full-body garments, commonly worn by Muslim women abiding by strict Sharia law. A photo of the students wearing the burqas surfaced on the Internet, leading some to allege that the school was promoting Islam.
In response, school officials released a statement Monday claiming the exercise was an attempt to expose the youths to different world cultures and customs. The statement, which was posted on the school's website
, says that the students wore burqas voluntarily and that Islam was the focus of instruction for the time being, while other world religions were taught at other times.
"The portrait focused only on Middle Eastern attire and the students are wearing variations of this customary attire found in the Middle Eastern culture. This portrait does not reflect the entire aspect of the lesson. The lesson encompassed diversity education so students receive a firm understanding of our world and why people are motivated differently," the statement said.
The lesson was part of the CSCOPE curriculum, which is taught in the majority of Texas classrooms and is considered by some to have a pro-Muslim bias.
However, a recent report released by a Texas-based organization found the curriculum has a Christian bias.
Republican Texas Sen. Dan Patrick, the chairman of an education committee, announced in December that he will be leading an investigation into the alleged CSCOPE bias, writing on his Facebook page that CSCOPE curriculum "needs to be closely examined by the legislature."
According to Lumberton High School officials, CSCOPE is not mandatory and teachers can alter their lesson plans.
Responding to the controversy, District Superintendent John Valastro told MSN News that "Lumberton does not 'promote' Islam, but 'teaches' a world geography curriculum as prescribed by the state of Texas."
The superintendent added that other potentially controversial issues could have arose during the lesson, including the punishments women face in some Muslim countries for not wearing burqas.
"I think the teacher is well versed in all the ramifications of what the religion represents," he told MSN News. "I assure you, she knows her stuff and if it came up, she could address the oppression piece quite clearly."
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