Sunday, December 20, 2015

UK: Head of student Islamic Society that heckled 'intolerant' speaker quits over a series of anti-gay tweets

The head of a university Islamic Society that accused an Iranian speaker of bigotry has quit – over a series of homophobic tweets.

Muhammed Patel, 20, is alleged to have called someone ‘fag’ on Twitter and to have written that ‘homosexuality is a disease of the heart and mind’.

Last month, members of the Islamic Society (ISOC) at Goldsmiths, University of London, disrupted a lecture by Maryam Namazie, a human rights campaigner and critic of Islam.

Men stood up and shouted, with one even switching off her projector when she showed a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed alongside Jesus Christ.

One of her colleagues said he had received a death threat during the lecture, in the form of a ‘shooting gun’ hand gesture.

Miss Namazie, 49, a former Muslim who fled the repressive regime in Iran and is an advocate of women’s rights, was later sent an anonymous death threat on Twitter. At first, ISOC defended its actions, labelling Miss Namazie an ‘Islamophobe’ and claiming its members had been subject to ‘vile harassment’.

But in the days that followed, damning footage of what happened was posted online and critics uncovered abusive tweets about homosexuality sent from an account called Mopey96, thought to be used by Mr Patel.

They had been posted in August about the Channel 4 documentary Muslim Drag Queens, which explored the life of Muslim gays and drag queens in Britain.

Now, Mr Patel, a politics student, has resigned as president of ISOC after members brought a motion of no confidence. In a statement, the society said: ‘In light of recent allegations attributed to Muhammed Patel, a meeting was called to discuss a motion of no confidence.

‘Soon after Muhammad tendered his resignation and it was accepted by the committee. Hate speech of any kind has no place in our society.’ ISOC has denied that any of its members made death threats. Miss Namazie’s lecture – ‘Apostasy, blasphemy and free expression in the age of ISIS’ – was hosted by the university’s Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH).

Before the talk, the Islamic Society insisted Miss Namazie should not be allowed to speak because her ‘bigoted views’ violated their ‘safe space’. Under university policies, people can be ejected from events if they are considered to be ‘invading’ a student’s ‘safe space’. This might include racist, sexist or homophobic insults’.

ISOC pointed to a number of controversial comments Miss Namazie has made in the past, including describing the veil as a symbol of ‘far-Right Islamism’ and calling the niqab a ‘bin bag’. Mr Patel lives with his father in Upton Park, East London. When a Mail reporter visited his home, his father said he was not in his room and refused to arrange for him to be contacted.

Mr Patel’s Facebook page carries an advertisement for an ISOC event featuring Moazzam Begg, who heads the CAGE group, which described Islamic State executioner Jihadi John as a ‘beautiful young man’.

The Goldsmiths students’ union said it had investigated what happened at the lecture and that both ASH and ISOC could be disciplined.

A Goldsmiths spokesman said: ‘We have a long-held reputation for promoting and supporting free speech and providing an inclusive and welcoming campus.

‘We are therefore concerned at reports from the student society event and its surrounding issues. We cannot comment on any of our discussions with individual students.’


UK: Schoolboy, 15, 'excluded from classes after row over him wearing a 'Lest We Forget' wrist-band in support of the armed forces'

The parents of a 15-year-old schoolboy claim he was excluded from classes after a row about wearing a charity wrist-band in support of the armed forces.

Jack White's stepfather said the teenager had been asked by a teacher to remove the black and white 'Lest We Forget' wrist-band during a lesson on Tuesday.

He refused to do so - saying he never takes if off because it's worn in memory of a family friend who died in the Gulf War - and was moved to isolation, his parents say.

Jack is then alleged to have been given a final ultimatum to 'remove the wrist-band or be excluded', to which he once again declined the request of staff at Harris Academy Greenwich, in London.

The schoolboy was therefore forced to miss the last three days of term, including a Spanish exam.

Jack's stepfather Barry Hooper, from Eltham, London, has hit out at the school for making 'such a big fuss' over something so trivial, but a Harris Academy Greenwich spokesman was quick to point out that no pupil in the academy has ever been excluded for wearing jewellery.

He would not comment on individual cases but said the school has 'high expectations of manners, attitude and behaviour.'

Mr Hooper, however, is adamant that his stepson was not rude during the alleged exchange.

He said: 'Jack was very careful to remain polite throughout the incident but simply said he would not take the wrist-band off.

'The school are now claiming that they never excluded Jack because of the wrist-band and that it was only because he was rude and because he attempted to leave without permission.

''I know Jack was not rude. He is very honest with us. When he got in some trouble for chatting in class once he was very honest with us about his behaviour and we backed the teachers 100 per cent and punished him for it but this is not the case here.'

Mr Hooper added: 'We couldn't believe that the school could have made such a big fuss and have such an impact on Jack's education over something as silly as this.

'It's pathetic. I understand why they need to ban jewellery but this is a charity wrist-band and is not even jewellery. It is usually not even visible as it is under his blazer sleeve and is not going to hurt anyone. It even matches the school colours.

'The most ridiculous thing is that this is a rubber band similar to a girl's hair bobble that they will often wear around the wrist.

'Pupils are also allowed to wear watches so we cannot understand why a charity wrist-band could be banned. Jack says one of the teachers involved was wearing a flashing, lit-up Christmas tree tie - why is that any more appropriate for school than a charity wrist-band?'

'At the end of the day, the wrist-band means a lot to Jack and is not just there for decoration, it is to show support so the school should be more understanding about things like that.'

Jack buys the Lest We Forget wrist-band each year. It holds sentimental value for him, particularly as close friends of the family are members of the armed forces.

He had owned this particular one for two months, wearing it every day without any problems.

But on Tuesday morning during Spanish, his first class of the day, the teacher allegedly embarked upon a 'nail varnish' check, which is also banned according to Barry, 44, and Jack's mother Angela Hooper, 49.

It was during this search that the wrist-band was spotted because Jack had pulled up the cuffs on his blazer. Mr Hooper claims he tried to reason with the headteacher before his stepson was sent home but was unable to resolve the issue.

He said: 'I tried to say that this was silly over just a wrist-band. I suggested they let him wear it for the remaining three days of term and then perhaps he could come back in the New Year without it, but he would not budge.

'This was something that was personal to Jack and all of our family are quite supportive of the armed forces.'

Since Jack was excluded he has missed numerous classes, including a mock exam in Spanish and also the exam itself, which he will have to take in January instead ahead of his GCSEs next summer.

A Harris Academy Greenwich spokesperson said: 'It would be inappropriate to specifically comment on an individual student, but nobody at our academy has ever been excluded for wearing jewellery.

'Indeed, even though we have a 'no jewellery' rule, if this was in the run up to Remembrance Sunday we would happily have given permission for students to wear Remembrance wrist-bands in the same way as we encourage the wearing of poppies.

'We do however have high expectations of manners, attitude and behaviour and, in order to be fair to the vast majority of students who conduct themselves with great maturity, we apply the same standards to everyone.'  [Waffle!]


Virginia School District Shuts Down After Backlash Over Islamic Assignment

After defending a Virginia teacher who made her students copy the Muslim statement of faith known as the shahada as part of a calligraphy assignment, Augusta County Schools shut down the entire school system Friday when a backlash erupted on social media.

 “While there has been no specific threat of harm to students, schools and school offices will be closed Friday, December 18, 2015,” Augusta County Public Schools said in a statement Thursday, noting the “voluminous phone calls and electronic mail” it had received “locally and from outside the area.”

The controversy ignited after parents learned that World Geography teacher Cheryl LaPorte had required her ninth-grade students at Riverheads High School in Staunton to copy the shahada, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, as part of an assignment on world religions.

Reciting the shahada is the first step in converting to Islam.   The passage translated from Arabic states: “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

LaPorte also invited her female students to try on headscarves, the Shilling Show first reported.

“Neither these lessons, nor any other lesson in the world geography course, are an attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion, or a request for students to renounce their own faith or profess any belief,” Superintendent Eric Bond said in a statement.

“They were simply asked to attempt to artistically render written Arabic in order to understand its artistic complexity,” he said, adding that the assignment was consistent with the state’s Standards of Learning and that the scarf female students were invited to try on “was not an actual Islamic religious hijab.”

But Bond’s reassurances did not assuage the 100 parents and community members who attended a forum at the Good News Ministries Church near the school to protest the assignment and point out that a public school teacher who required students to copy passages from the Bible would be fired, the Staunton News Leader reported.

“These children were deceived when they were told it was calligraphy. This is not calligraphy, this is a language,” said Kimberly Herndon, a parent of six who posted a protest on Facebook December 12 after her son brought home the assignment.

Herndon also said on Facebook that the teacher “has passed that Koran around that room every single day since the beginning. That is wrong. Where is the bible? Can I take a bible and place it in every single class room tomorrow?”

Herndon said she and another parent met with school officials who “were forthright in admitting that the teacher made a mistake in assigning the children to copy the shahada…also it was admitted that asking the students to put on the head dressing of the Islamic woman was a bad choice in that there was no representation of any other apparel of any other culture or religion.”

The school system later said it had removed the shahada from the curriculum. “Although students will continue to learn about world religions as required by the state Board of Education and the Commonwealth’s Standards of Learning, a different, non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy will be used in the future," it said in a statement.


Bipartisan Achievements: Bigger Government, Worse Schools

"This is an early Christmas present."

That is what a very merry Barack Obama said earlier this month when he signed into law a bill sent to him by the Republican Congress.

The Republicans in Congress entitled it "The Every Student Succeeds Act." They wrote it to replace the "No Child Left Behind Act" — which was sponsored 14 years ago by then-Rep. John Boehner, a future Republican House speaker, and signed by George W. Bush, the last Republican president.

The Every Student Succeeds Act now serves the same function as its predecessor: perpetuating federal involvement in primary and secondary education.

Like No Child Left Behind, it also demonstrates that big government is a bipartisan endeavor in Washington, D.C.

In fiscal 2002, when No Child Left Behind became law, the federal government spent $47.036 billion on the Department of Education. That equals $62.053 billion in 2015 dollars. In fiscal 2015, the federal government spent $90.031 billion on the Department of Education.

In the No Child Left Behind era, real annual federal education spending increased 45 percent.

At the same time, achievement scores in reading and math flatlined.

In 2002, public school eighth graders scored an average of 263 out of 500 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. In 2015, they scored an average of 264 out of 500.

In 2002, only 31 percent of American public school eighth graders scored "at or above proficient" in reading, according to the Department of Education. In 2015, only 33 percent did.

In mathematics, public school eighth graders averaged 276 out of 500 in 2003. In 2015, they averaged 281.

In 2003, only 27 percent were at or above proficient in math. In 2015, it was only 32 percent.

In the 2001-2002 school year, when No Child Left Behind became law, current expenditures per pupil in the nation's public elementary and secondary schools was $10,890 in constant 2013-2014 dollars. In 2011-2012, it was $11,732.

America's public schools are not failing for lack of money.

But federal involvement in the public schools is also increasing the moral hazard Americans face when they send their children there.

The Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights issued a "guidance" last year declaring that Title IX, the federal law banning sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funding, also bars discrimination against students who claim a "gender identity" different from their biological sex.

Pursuing this principle, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in a brief filed this fall that: "[T]he Department of Education — the agency with primary enforcement authority over Title IX — has concluded that, although recipients may provide separate restrooms for boys and girls, when a school does so, it must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity. Doing so is the only way to ensure that the school's provision of sex-segregated restrooms complies with Title IX mandated not to subject any student to discrimination on the basis of sex."

Meanwhile, the new bipartisan education law that President Barack Obama happily declared a "Christmas present" authorizes increased federal involvement in preschool.

"Title IX would house a new federal preschool program authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act and establish annual funding at $250 million," Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation wrote in the Daily Signal. "The new preschool program would be housed at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and jointly administered by the Department of Education.

"The funding would be made available to states to help coordinate existing government preschool programs, such as those operated by the states and Head Start, and to establish new preschool programs," says Burke. "Although some funding has been appropriated for the preschool program for the past two years, the new Every Student Succeeds Act would codify the new $250-million federal preschool program, creating mission creep in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act."

America does not need the federal government involved in preschools; it needs parents in total control of where their children go to school.

The federal Department of Education should be abolished. At the local level, local governments should take the same amount of money they now spend per pupil in their public schools and give it in the form of a voucher to every parent with a school-age child.

Parents should be permitted to redeem those vouchers at any school they like, period.


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