Islamophobia in America: Student air passenger handcuffed to echoes of 9/11 fears
- Student air passenger handcuffed to echoes of 9/11 fears
By Dave Davies
Philadelphia Daily News
EIGHT YEARS after 9/11, we're used to changes in our routines. We show ID to get into office buildings, and take off our shoes at airports.
But should a college student flying back to school be handcuffed and held for five hours because he has Arabic flash cards in his backpack?
That's the way Nick George, a senior at Pomona College, in California, sees what happened to him at the Philadelphia airport two Saturdays ago.
George, of Wyncote, Montgomery County, was about to catch a Southwest flight back to school when stereo speakers in his backpack caught the eye of screeners at the metal detector.
When they looked though his bag, George said, they found his Arabic/English flash cards, and escorted him to a side screening area.
He figures it didn't help that his passport had stamps from Jordan, where he'd studied a semester, and Egypt and Sudan, where he'd gone backpacking.
And among his 200 flash cards were words like "terrorist" and "explosion." He was learning to translate the Arabic-language news network Al Jazeera.
"I understand I might warrant a second look," George told me. "They should have taken me aside, seen I had a legitimate explanation and a student ID and that I was carrying nothing illegal, and waved me on."
George said that Transportation Security Administration officers kept him in the screening area for what seemed like 45 minutes. Eventually a woman from the TSA arrived and began asking more questions, like how he felt about 9/11.
"Do you know who did 9/11?" he said that the woman asked.
George said that he told her that it was Osama bin Laden, and that she responded smugly, "Do you know what language Osama bin Laden spoke?"
Soon after that a Philadelphia police officer arrived and told George to put his hands behind his back. Without explanation, he slapped handcuffs on him and led him away.
George was taken to the airport police station, where he was locked in a holding cell with the cuffs still on. I guess that's what you do with a high-value physics major.
George said that he tried to be a model prisoner, and after about two hours a police supervisor removed the handcuffs. After a couple of more hours two FBI agents appeared and took him to another room for questioning.
They were polite, George said, and asked why he studied Arabic, why he'd been in the Middle East, whether anyone had ever asked him to join a terrorist group, whether he was "Islamic," whether he'd joined any Islamic or Communist (yes, Communist) groups on campus.
"They told me their job is more an art than a science," George said. "They come in and decide whether there's a legitimate threat, and in my case, they decided I was not a threat."
So, many hours after his backpack entered the metal detector, George was released with a ticket to fly the next day, but without an apology or explanation.
If there's one thing we know that the government needs in the post-9/11 era, it's more college students interested in learning Arabic.
George feels that he was treated like a criminal because somebody didn't like the flash cards. He wasn't injured or psychologically scarred, just ticked off.
"I didn't have a weapon or anything seditious, just words on paper," George said. "As an American citizen, I think I'm allowed to learn a foreign language and have flash cards."
TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis tracked down a report on George's encounter, and said that it wasn't the flash cards that got him flagged.
Davis said that George had been selected for screening before he even reached the metal detector by TSA behavioral-detection officers, personnel trained to screen passengers for "involuntary physical and physiological reactions that people exhibit in response to a fear of being discovered."
Davis said that the report indicates that in the screening area, George's "behavior escalated to a point where our officers deemed it necessary to contact the Philadelphia Police Department."
Davis couldn't say what behavior had caught the officers' eye or what escalating behavior he exhibited. She said the report did note that George had Arabic flash cards, but "that's not why we would call law enforcement."
The police story is a little different.
Lt. Louis Liberati said, just as Davis did, that TSA personnel initially selected George because of something in his behavior.
But Liberati said that it was the stuff that the TSA found in George's backpack and wallet that really aroused their suspicion: the Arabic flash cards with troubling words, a card that had George's name and Arabic script, and the longer hair in George's driver's license and passport photos than his current clean-cut appearance.
That's "an indicator sometimes that somebody may have gone through a radicalization," Liberati explained.
Liberati said nothing about "escalating behavior." Liberati said police checked with the FBI, and the feds decided that they wanted to come and interview George.
I reached George, now back in school, and told him the authorities' version of the events.
He said that it's "crazy" to think that he was acting suspiciously in line or that he had exhibited "escalating behavior" while being questioned.
He insists that he patiently explained everything, including the card with Arabic writing - his student ID from Jordan - which he keeps as a souvenir.
"I never raised my voice," George said, "but I did ask once or twice how much longer this was going to take because my flight was about to leave."
Liberati also said that he's certain that George had not been left handcuffed in his cell.
George is equally certain that he was. His wallet was taken, and he remembers an officer coming into his cell to give him the $30 they'd found inside. The officer stuffed the money in his pocket, George said, and left with the cuffs still locked tight.
Our lives have changed since 9/11, and mistakes will happen. But when government personnel put an innocent person through something like this, it would be nice if someone offered an explanation, or showed just a touch of humanity.
Until then, check your flash cards with your luggage.
Group calls for hate crime charges after teens attacked
Oralandar Brand-Williams / The Detroit News
Ann Arbor -- The Michigan chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations is calling for state and federal hate crimes charges to be filed against students who allegedly attacked a 16-year-old girl and her 17-year-old brother on a school bus coming from Skyline High School on Tuesday.
The siblings, who are of Iraqi heritage, were allegedly attacked by a group of black teens.
Dawud Walid, the executive director of CAIR-Michigan, said the teens hit the girl in the face and pulled off her hijab, a head wrap.
The teens also hurled racial slurs at the brother and sisters, according to Walid.
The girl required six stitches to her head, said Walid. Her brother was attacked while trying to come to his sister's defense.
"Because of the slurs reportedly used during this attack, we call on local, state and national law enforcement authorities to consider hate crime charges for any perpetrators," said Walid.
Ann Arbor police said they were investigating the incident.
Teen at center of rights suit
A federal agency alleges that a retailer did not hire her because of her hijab.
By GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Published: 9/18/2009 2:25 AM
Last Modified: 9/18/2009 4:33 AM
A popular national chain of clothing stores is being sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for allegedly not hiring a Muslim Tulsa teenager because she wears a hijab, a religiously mandated head scarf.
The EEOC filed the lawsuit Wednesday against Abercrombie & Fitch in U.S. District Court in Tulsa, citing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, modified in 1991, as the basis for the action.
The suit says that Samantha Elauf, 17, applied in June 2008 for a sales job at the Abercrombie Kids store in Woodland Hills Mall.
A district manager allegedly told her that the hijab, which Elauf wears in observance of her religious beliefs, did not fit the store's image.
"Defendant refused to hire Ms. Elauf because she wears a hijab, claiming that the wearing of headgear was prohibited by its Look Policy, and, further, failed to accommodate her religious beliefs by making an exception to the Look Policy," the lawsuit states.
Elauf went to the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Oklahoma, which helped her file a complaint with the EEOC in Oklahoma City.
The Civil Rights Act protects people from discrimination based upon religion in hiring and in the terms of their employment, an EEOC press release says.
The law requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of an employee unless doing so would create an "undue hardship" for the employer.
Michelle M. Robertson, a senior trial attorney for the EEOC, stated, "It is unlawful for employers to treat applicants or workers differently based on their religious beliefs or practices in any aspect of employment, including recruitment, hiring and job assignments."
The lawsuit was filed after the parties failed to reach a settlement, the release states.
Webster Smith, acting director of the EEOC's St. Louis district office, which handles the agency's litigation in Oklahoma, declared, "The EEOC is committed to eliminating religious discrimination in the workplace.
"As religious diversity increases in the workplace, companies need to be more vigilant in respecting and balancing employees' needs to practice their religion, including engaging in religious expression."
The lawsuit asks the company to stop religious discrimination in its hiring; institute policies, practices and programs to provide equal employment opportunities; and provide Elauf with "appropriate back pay with prejudgement interest" and punitive damages.
The EEOC accused Abercrombie & Fitch in 2004 of violating the Civil Rights Act by adopting a restrictive marketing image that limited the hiring of minorities, who did not conform to the image.
The company reached a settlement with the EEOC and private parties in which it agreed to pay $50 million and was enjoined from discriminating against job applicants based on race, color and national origin; discriminating against women because of gender; and denying promotional opportunities to women and minorities.
EEOC general counsel Eric Dreiband said at the time that the retail industry "needs to know that businesses cannot discriminate against individuals under the auspice of a marketing strategy or a particular 'look.' "
American Rose fights for Pakistani husband
Rose, a 32-year-old American woman in Islamabad, is seeking justice for her Pakistani husband, Hasan, who claims that he was detained and tortured by officials of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before being deported in 2006.
The couple, who have asked that their last names be withheld for security reasons, is currently appealing to the US embassy in Islamabad to review their case so that the family can be repatriated to the US, where Hasan was a legal resident since 2003. They have not filed a lawsuit against Hasan’s detention in the US civilian courts as they cannot afford legal counsel. However, a motion on Hasan’s behalf has been filed in the International Criminal Court by a Florida-based human rights’ campaigner.
Although Hasan has been back in Pakistan since 2006 – Rose and the couple’s two children followed in 2008 – the couple chose not to pursue Hasan’s case earlier because they saw no hope for justice under the former Bush administration. They are now pinning everything on President Barack Obama’s government.
‘I got a phone call from the US embassy today,’ says Rose, eyes shining with excitement in her two-room rented basement house in the capital city. The embassy has acknowledged the case for the first time since Rose’s arrival in Pakistan in January 2008.
‘Before, [the embassy officials] simply told me to leave my husband, just divorce him,’ says Rose. ‘They encouraged me to return to the US with my children and to forget about Hasan.’ She adds that the officials told Rose, a US citizen, that three other US citizens would have to vouch for her on her arrival in the US.
Girl suffers beating and slurs in Ann Arbor
Group ripped Islamic scarf off, police say
BY NIRAJ WARIKOO
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
An Islamic advocacy group said a 16-year-old Muslim girl of Iraqi descent was verbally and physically attacked Tuesday afternoon in Ann Arbor by a group of African-American students.
The assailants allegedly said "(expletive) Arabs, they are dirty," pulled the girl's Islamic headscarf off, and dragged her to a nearby home where she suffered injuries from an assault that required six stitches, the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said Wednesday.
Civil rights officials examine attack on Muslim girl
The Michigan Department of Civil Rights said today it is looking into the attack on a 16-year-old Muslim girl of Iraqi descent by five African-American students in Ann Arbor.
The assailants said "(expletive) Arabs, they are dirty," pulled the girl's Islamic headscarf off, and dragged her to a nearby home where she suffered injuries from an assault that required six stitches, the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said Wednesday. The incident started on a school bus, the group said.
At one point, one of the attackers said to the girl: “Why are you wearing a scarf?” according to the group.
Ann Arbor police are interviewing people in the Tuesday incident, Lt. Renee Bush said today.
Kelvin Scott, director of the Civil Rights Department, said he has assigned a crisis response team to find out what happened. An Arab-American employee in his department is looking into the case, he said. Scott said the department’s action is not yet a formal investigation.
Meanwhile, the family of the victim may speak out today, said Dawud Walid, head of Michigan CAIR.
Walid said the attackers were five students.
"We're extremely troubled," Walid said.
"We're asking state and federal authorities to investigate these assaults as hate crimes due to the racial slurs used and that her hijab was pulled off during the assaults."
Some Muslim women wear a headscarf known as a hijab.
The victim's brother also was attacked when he tried to come to her defense, Walid said.
Walid said he contacted the head of the Detroit FBI office about the incident since it involved possible hate crimes.
Anti-Muslim bias persists, poll finds
By Julia Duin
Eight years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the general public thinks Muslims are second only to homosexuals in being discriminated against, a new survey shows.
Nearly six in 10 Americans -- 58 percent -- think Muslims are subject to "a lot" of discrimination, according to two combined surveys released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center. Almost two-thirds of those surveyed -- 64 percent -- said there was "a lot" of discrimination against homosexuals.
However, 38 percent of those polled, down from 45 percent two years ago, think Islam encourages violence more than do other faiths.
The biggest shift was among conservative Republicans, 55 percent of whom said Islam encourages violence, down 13 percentage points from when the same group was polled in August 2007. When asked the same question, white mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics and conservative Democrats all showed drops of nine percentage points compared with 2007.
Black Protestants stayed the same at 30 percent. White evangelicals who think Islam encourages violence dropped four points from 57 percent to 53 percent.
Forty-five percent of the adults polled said they personally know a Muslim. Men (51 percent) were more likely than women (40 percent) to know a Muslim and blacks (57 percent) more likely than whites (44 percent) or Hispanics (39 percent) to know one. Liberals (51 percent) personally knew a Muslim more than conservatives (41 percent).
The surveys said young people ages 18-29 are overwhelmingly (73 percent) more likely to say Muslims are the most discriminated against, compared with those over 65, only 45 percent of whom say Muslims get the brunt of discrimination.
Americans' familiarity with Islam's most basic tenets has increased in the past eight years, the survey said, with 53 percent able to identify "Allah" as the Islamic name for God and 52 percent able to identify the Koran as Islam's sacred book. Forty-one percent could answer both questions; 36 percent said they were unfamiliar with either term.
When asked to identify which religion is most different from their own, Islam led the pack with 45 percent of those polled saying it was most different. Buddhism (44 percent) and Hinduism (40 percent) were close behind. However, Islam is a monotheistic faith with roots in Judaism and Christianity, whereas Buddhism and Hinduism believe in multiple or no gods.
Higher levels of familiarity with Islam as well as personally knowing Muslims are associated with favorable attitudes toward the religion. Of the group judged to be most familiar with Islam, 34 percent said the religion encourages violence. With those of medium familiarity, 42 percent said Islam encourages violence.
However, of those judged to have the least familiarity, the level sank, with 37 percent saying Islam causes violence.
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the conclusions of the Pew study match his group's tracking of bias against Muslims. Mr. Hooper said his organization's research shows that discrimination against Muslims has increased since the group began tracking it in 1995.
"It's unfortunate," Mr. Hooper said. "But I don't want to get into that idea that we are more of a victim than any other minority group. We don't want to see anyone targeted by bias or intolerance."
Mr. Hooper also agreed with the Pew study's conclusion that those who are more familiar with Islam were less likely to link the religion to violence.
"Our research has shown time and time again that when people know more about Islam, prejudice and stereotyping [go] down," he said. "I think that just confirms what we've seen a number of times in the past."
The surveys by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life were conducted Aug. 11-17 among 2,010 adults. The margin of error is 2.5 percentage points. Some findings also came from another survey of 2,003 adults conducted Aug. 20-27.
• Ben Conery contributed to this report.
Wal-Mart And An Accounting Firm Fire A Muslim For Praying, Suit Says
By Chris Vogel in Courts
Mohammed Zakaria Memon just wanted to wash up. To just splash a little water over his face, hands, head and feet before a quick prayer five times a day in accordance with his Muslim religion.
But no. That was too much for the folks at Wal-Mart and Deloitte Consulting. Instead, they canned Memon.
That's according to a lawsuit Memon recently filed against his former employer, Deloitte, and his client, Wal-Mart, in Houston federal court. Memon, a 59-year-old Pakistani-American from Fort Bend who had a $140,000 a year job as a Lead Consultant, claims his civil rights were violated when he was fired for exercising his religious right to pray and clean himself beforehand in a ritual known as "Wazu."
"It's very unfortunate that this happened," Memon's lawyer, Ali Ahmed, tells Hair Balls.
According to the lawsuit, Deloitte assigned Memon to a consulting project at Wal-Mart's corporate office in Bentonville, Arkansas in November 2007. Memon claims he would wash up in the restroom before going to pray in an area designated by Wal-Mart, such as the parking lot or in a hallway. The whole process took about five minutes or so.
After a few days, the lawsuit states, Wal-Mart employees began to get upset with Memon for using the bathroom to sprinkle water on himself and Memon was told not to perform the "Wazu." Trying to come up with a fix, Memon's boss at Deloitte suggested that Memon pray at the hotel. However, this was not practical because it meant driving more than half an hour for each prayer instead of just taking a short five-minute break.
It didn't take long until Memon was then taken off the Wal-Mart project. He claims that a Deloitte project manager told him that other colleagues would also be removed from the job, but in the end he was the only one.
National civil rights group wants hate charges pursued in attack on cab driver
A national civil-rights group is asking authorities to pursue hate crime charges against two San Ramon Valley men who allegeldy used slurs and beat a cabdriver.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations is urging that the arrested men be held accountable if there was any bias motive in the attack that left 38-year-old Jaswinder Bangar with a broken tooth, bruises and stitches to his face.
Police say Bangar was called "Taliban" and "terrorist" by the men during the Thursday morning attack.
"We get involved with this any time anti-Muslim slurs are used, regardless whether the alleged victim is a Muslim himself," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based organization.
3 states still ban religious clothing for teachers
A law backed by the Ku Klux Klan nearly a century ago to keep Catholics out of public schools is still on the books in Oregon, one of the last states in the nation to prohibit teachers from wearing religious clothing in classrooms.
Both Pennsylvania and Nebraska have similar laws, which try to balance the constitutional conflict between protecting students from the establishment of religion in schools and the rights of teachers to express their beliefs through their dress.
Oregon's law, originally aimed at priest collars and nun habits, survived a legal challenge in the 1980s by a Sikh convert who wanted to wear her turban in the classroom and was recently upheld by the state's Legislature.
A Muslim teacher in Pennsylvania lost a similar challenge in 1991 to that state's even older law for the right to wear a headscarf at school. So far, it has not posed any serious legal issues in Nebraska.
That such a law still exists was a surprise for many Oregonians who learned about it when Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed the Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act in July, allowing workers to wear religious clothing on the job.
But the did law did not change the ban for teachers enacted in the 1920s, after that portion was opposed by the Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on the grounds that impressionable children should not feel indoctrinated by their teachers.
The laws' existence also surprised Mona Elgindy, a law student at Loyola University in Chicago who wrote a paper on the issue. She is a Muslim and a former teacher.
"I kept doing research and research, and thought I must be finding something that's overruling this, or repealing the law, and there was nothing," Elgindy said.
In her paper, one of the few studies on religious clothing laws in recent years, Elgindy noted she could find no evidence that the laws statutes have ever been invoked by students. Rather, the recent legal history has been created by teachers trying to keep their jobs after administrators confronted them.
Court rulings in both Oregon and federal court in Pennsylvania rejected the claims by teachers and pointed out conflicts with the First Amendment: Teachers have a constitutional right to freedom of religion, but school districts must avoid supporting any religion.
Michael Kaufman, one of Elgindy's professors and an education law expert, said laws banning religious clothing used to be fairly common. But there has been a gradual shift away from them to protect teachers' religious freedom as long as it does not disrupt the classroom.
"It's now sort of gone full circle," Kaufman said. "The law now requires neutrality regarding religion, meaning the states or schools can neither favor nor disfavor religion."
The few remaining bans "are really suspect constitutionally now," he said.
During her eight years as a teacher in the Chicago area, Elgindy says she never ran into a conflict over her style of dress and covering her hair.
"It never was something that seemed to be in the way of my being a teacher," she said, adding it was often the opposite reaction. "They said, 'Here's somebody of a different background who can bring diversity to the staff.' It was always seen as positive thing."
An example of a shift in court attitude may have been signaled when the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in 1999 that Muslim police officers in Newark, N.J., must be allowed to wear beards.
Tom Hutton, senior staff attorney for the National School Boards Association, said he did not know of any significant pending cases that might test the bans.
"It's really anybody's guess, but my own personal view is it would be more of an uphill battle to defend a religious garb statute than attack it," Hutton said.
Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt wanted to include teachers in the new workplace law. But it was opposed by the ACLU during a legislative session dominated by the recession and one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.
Dave Fidanque, ACLU executive director for Oregon, said the law helps ensure religious neutrality in public schools even though times have changed. "It's not an easy issue," he said.
Schools have been battlegrounds because "those who feel very strongly that their particular brand of religion is best feel the need to have their religion endorsed by public schools to attract more followers to their beliefs," Fidanque said.
The battle has not changed much since the 19th century when Pennsylvania voters passed a law in 1895 aimed at preventing nuns from wearing religious clothing in schools, said Stuart Knade, attorney for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
The effort to ensure religious neutrality in schools came from parents who had the strongest religious beliefs, "so there's an interesting irony there," Knade said.
Rajdeep Singh Jolly, legal director for the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, both say the laws are not only unconstitutional, but discriminatory because their enforcement now tends to fall on minorities.
The Sikh group has asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether the Oregon law violates Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, and received a letter this week saying the department would give it "careful consideration."
Jolly and Hooper say the best way to deal with any problem involving religion in classrooms is to discipline teachers if they try to proselytize students or advocate favoring a particular religion, not for the way they dress.
"I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect that teachers will not talk about their religion in the classroom," Jolly said.
But when it comes to a Sikh turban or other clothing, he asked: "Why should I have to surrender something that is such an integral part of my life in order to pursue a career? It just doesn't make sense."
The Elgindy paper is available online at Loyola University at: http://www.luc.edu/law/academics/special/center/child/childed(underscore)forum/pdfs/elgindy(underscore)end(underscore)era.pdf
EEOC: Swift acted with bias
A federal panel said Monday that it believed Greeley meatpacker JBS Swift violated the civil rights of more than 100 Somali Muslims it fired last year after a walkout over religious differences at the height of Ramadan, Islam's holiest time.
The determination by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission comes exactly a year after hundreds of Somali workers left the slaughterhouse because the company wouldn't accommodate requests for prayer time.
A Swift spokesman said Monday that the EEOC determination was not unexpected but that the timing of the decision was "disappointing" as the meatpacker has worked to make "this year's Ramadan work out smoothly."
"We don't think it's coincidental," Chandler Keys said of the EEOC decision arriving during the holy month, which began Aug. 24. "We're focused on this year's Ramadan."
The Muslim workers had demanded time to pray at sundown, the end of a dawn-to-dusk fast, a requirement of Islam during Ramadan. More than 300 workers walked out when told they could not break for the day's final prayer. About 103 workers were fired days later, not for walking off the job but for not returning to work, Keys said.
The walkout touched off a storm of protests, mostly among workers of different religious faiths who railed at the request for religious accommodation. Federal law requires employers to accommodate the religious requests of its workers.
Hernando student lied about seeing Muslim student sit during Pledge, officials say
The JROTC member at Springstead High School who said she confronted a Muslim student last week because the girl did not stand for the Pledge of Allegiance fabricated that part of the story, school officials said Monday.
Heather Lawrence, a 16-year-old junior at the school, has said she was walking by another homeroom Wednesday morning when she saw a girl with the traditional Muslim head scarf sitting during the pledge.
Later, Lawrence said she confronted the girl, told her she should stand during the pledge and, according to her own account and a school report, said, "Take that thing off your head and act like you're proud to be an American."
A teacher witnessed the confrontation and Lawrence was suspended for five days for violating the district's policy against bullying and harassment. The suspension has since been reduced to three days.
But Lawrence could not have seen what she said she saw, Springstead principal Susan Duval said Monday.
"This girl lied," Duval said. "I have confirmed with the homeroom teacher the young lady stood for the pledge."
FBI Investigates Vandalism At Mosque
‘Death To Muslims’ Scratched Into Sidewalk
POSTED: 9:12 am EDT August 26, 2009
UPDATED: 11:50 am EDT August 26, 2009
The FBI is investigating a case of vandalism at a mosque in Taylors.
The vandalism was found at the Islamic Center and Masjid, located at 96 Meridian Ave. on Saturday.
According to an incident report, a member of the mosque discovered the phrase “death to Muslims” scratched into a sidewalk near a side entrance to the building.
The case was turned over to the FBI by the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office.
'Islam is of the devil' shirt appears at elementary school
By Christopher Curry
Published: Monday, August 24, 2009 at 5:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 24, 2009 at 5:56 p.m
A student at Talbot Elementary School wore a shirt bearing the message "Islam is of the devil" on the first day of school and was sent home for violation of the school district's dress code.
Asked about a report of the dress code violation, School District spokeswoman Jackie Johnson confirmed that a student did wear a shirt with the anti-Islam message and was sent to the school office until a parent could come. Johnson said the student's parent had the option of bringing another shirt for the child to change into or taking the child home and opted to take the child home.
The Dove World Outreach Center, a church in northwest Gainesville, began to draw protesters in July after posting a sign that read "Islam is of the devil" on its property. The Dove World Outreach Center is approximately one mile from the Talbot campus. School district officials would not comment on the identity of the student, or whether the child was a member of the Dove Outreach Center congregation, because of privacy issues.
The School Board recently toughened the district's dress code. But a condition banning clothing school officials deem to be "offensive" or "disruptive" was already in the code before the revision.
Reached by phone late Monday afternoon, Stephanie Sapp, secretary at the Dove Outreach Center, declined immediate comment, saying she did not have time to discuss the matter.