A few months ago, Azfar Quddus’ 12-year-old son came home from his Ventura County school with a handout from his teacher.
“It had really horrible things written on it,” Quddus says.
Some of the information the teacher used in the Mesa Union School District social studies class mirrors information found on the website billionbibles.org. The site promotes a radical view of Christianity, saying Satan uses Muslims to kill Christians and that people should be afraid of Islam.
Students in the social studies class got material that purported to interpret Islamic law and the holy Quran.
“I told my son, ‘This is not what Islam is and what this sheet is saying has nothing to do with our religion,’ ” Quddus says.
“ ‘That’s not what my friends think,’ ” Quddus remembers his son saying. “ ‘They think that’s what Islam is.’ ”
Islamic studies professors say the list the teacher gave students creates a deeply distorted picture of Islam, relying on strict interpretations of Quranic verse.
“It is clear that the Islam of this website is not recognizable to the lives of any modern Muslims,” says CSU Stanislaus Professor As’ad AbuKhalil.
“The fact that St. Thomas Aquinas believed that heresy should be punishable by death does not mean that Christians are still punished by death for heresy.”
The sheet of paper distributed by the Mesa Union teacher states that Sharia Law makes various offenses punishable by death, including the marriage of a non-Muslim man to a Muslim woman, and a woman or girl found guilty of adultery.
The sheet also indicates that Sharia Law gives Muslim men sexual rights over any woman or girl not wearing the hijab, and allows a man to marry an infant girl and consummate the marriage when she is nine-years-old.
When Quddus contacted his son’s principal to complain, he says he didn’t get an apology from anyone. Instead, he says, the school offered to take his son out of the class.
“My son has been out of the class for the last two months and he’s been sitting in the library for two hours because he can’t go back to the class and the teacher is still there, teaching whatever he wants to,” he says.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations helped the Quddus family file a complaint with the Mesa Union School District, arguing the teacher’s actions violate state and federal anti-discrimination laws and violate the constitutional separation of church and state.
“There’s nothing that could be done with these materials in a public school that would not violate the First Amendment,” says Patricia Shnell, an attorney who worked with the family.
According to Shnell, the district denied any wrongdoing by the male teacher, and defended him in part by saying he didn’t remember where he got the materials.
The district superintendent declined to comment on the allegations, but in a statement said the district takes all complaints seriously and responds swiftly. He added that the district continues to seek a resolution of this matter.
The Quddus family and their lawyer want a resolution, too — not just for the family’s son, but for all the kids they say have been left with a warped view of Islam.
“This could kind of forever shape this community’s vision of who Muslims are and what Islam is,” Shnell says.
The family filed a complaint with the California Department of Education last week. They want an apology, and consequences for the teacher. And they want students to get a fair education about Islam.
The latest survey results from the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations show bullying and discrimination from teachers, administrators and other officials against Muslim students went up 18 percent from 2014 to 2016.