Some wore neckties that resembled U.S. flags. Some were parents or grandparents. One was not yet even a teenager.
They all were united by a mission. And one by one, the speakers took the Hillsborough County School Board to task Tuesday over what they said was the improper teaching of Islam in a high school classroom last year by the leader of the local Council on American-Islamic Relations.
They said the presentation by CAIR’s Hassan Shibly – made to an advanced-placement world history class in November at Steinbrenner High – was a threat to children, to schools, to America.
“As a father to a child, this breaks my heart to know this is even considered in the schools,” said William Terrell of Tampa.
“CAIR funds homicide bombers to do what they do. They fund the ability of rockets being shot into Israel,” said Ryan Italiano, an 11-year-old who is home-schooled.
“Why you’ll let this religion be taught in our schools but you won’t let the religion that this country was made of be taught in the schools. What’s the point in teaching religion that caused the twin towers to fall down?”
Finally, after 17 speakers on the topic, and with dozens more anti-CAIR forces in the crowd who didn’t speak, school board Chairwoman Candy Olson had heard enough. And she unleashed on the group.
“Our teachers do need to give our students a broad view of the world,” she said, clearly irritated. “The Muslim faith is here to stay. I don’t think we can protect our children from the fact that there are people in this world who believe in Islam.”
She called those in the audience out of touch and criticized what she labeled a negative and mostly anonymous e-mail campaign that she said was meant to intimidate.
“This was one speaker for part of one class. This wasn’t an indoctrination,” Olson said. “How dare you show such disdain for people who are by and large competent professionals? It is essential, it is imperative we support our teachers in showing a broad view of the world.”
See also “Hillsborough superintendent defends Muslim leader’s school visit”, Tampa Bay Times, 25 January 2012
Update: See “School officials stand up to intolerant bullies”, Tampa Bay Times editorial, 26 January 2012