On October 17th, students from Metro Nashville Meigs Middle Magnet School visited the Islamic Center of Nashville (ICN) where Dina Sirois, operations director of the mosque, told them that they would “talk about beliefs and practices in Islam.”
An audio recording of Sirois’ presentation was forwarded to The Tennessee Star.
Using a set of prepared slides, Sirois alternated between talking about Islamic religious doctrine and posing comparisons of Islam to Judaism and Christianity. She opened her talk telling the students that:
We’re all on a learning journey and on a faith journey and today’s talk is to expand your critical thinking skills. We’re not trying to win you over. We’re trying to give you information so you can leave here today with yet another little piece of your brain that has some new little storage compartment that has been filled with Islam stuff and then you take that on with your life and your faith journey and then you keep adding more and more aspects from different faiths and different cultures until you make your final decision as to what kind of person you want to be when you grow up.
Sirois described how she came from a “mixed family”:
So I call it the best of both worlds. My mom was Catholic and Greek Orthodox Christian so I got to celebrate the Muslim holidays, the Catholic Christian holidays and then the Orthodox Greek holidays which are like super super strict like midnight mass, midnight Christmas and all that stuff. And then I went to an all Christian high school and a Christian university and then I got my masters thesis on the old and new testaments and after all that I chose Islam because I kept bringing in information and studying about Buddhism and all these different religions and I chose Islam at the end of my faith journey.
So you know that you are all on a faith journey and you have your traditions which you were raised with in your home and you’ll also need to think whether you like to apply this to yourself or continue learning more.
Subtle, yet negative comments were interspersed when comparing Islam to other world religions. For example, after reciting the Islamic testimony in Arabic, Sirois translated it -“I bear witness that there is only one god wherever he is worshipped and that Mohammed is the last of the prophets,” explaining that:
That’s it – that’s all you have to do to become a Muslim. Boom, you’re a Muslim. It’s very simple. There’s no baptism, no dunking under water which for me, I remember having to hold my nose and I looked weird.
Threaded throughout the talk were selectively incomplete details of Islamic religious doctrine such as:
We do believe that Jesus Christ will be resurrected. He will go head to head with the anti-Christ and he will deliver us to the kingdom of heaven. Does that sound familiar to any of you? Uhmmmm.
Sirois omits the Quran’s claim that unlike Jews and Christians, Muslims do not believe that Jesus was crucified and died, but rather, ascended to their god, Allah and that when Jesus is resurrected, he will “be against them [Christians and Jews] a witness [for believing in his death].”
Parts of Sirois’ talk sound like what is taught in many Sunday school religion classes:
We believe in the day of judgment. After that back and forth between the anti-Christ and Jesus we believe that we will all stand before god and there will be a day of judgment and we will have to answer for our good deeds and our bad deeds. Just like in the criminal justice system – if you do something wrong you have to answer for it and its ultimately between you and god because we believe that god is an ever-loving, ever-merciful, ever-forgiving god.
So we’re human and we sin and it’s not like we’re going to go to hell.
The U.S. Supreme Court held in a 1963 case involving prayer in school, that public schools could teach about religion and could provide instruction comparing different religions, but must maintain neutrality as to any one religion.
More specifically, Tennessee law excludes teaching religious doctrine which federal court decisions have held are devotional and religious in character, an issue amplified by another Tennessee law passed in 2016:
The inclusion of religion in textbooks, instructional materials, curriculum or academic standards shall be for educational purposes only and shall not be used to proselytize or establish any religion or religious belief.
Proselytizing Islam is referred to as “dawa.” SoundVision, a Chicago-based non-profit oriented to promoting Islam through multimedia confirms that dawa is a religious obligation and promotes the idea of proselytizing Islam in public schools.
Schools students are routinely exposed in their classroom to new information and opinions, hence they tend to be more receptive to new beliefs and ideas. Schools are therefore fertile grounds where the seeds of Islam can be sowed inside the hearts of non-Muslim students. Muslim students should take ample advantage of this opportunity and expose their school mates to the beautiful beliefs of Islam…
We should use every opportunity presented or created to sensitize non-Muslim peers and school staff with Islam and establish an environment in which every where a non-Muslim turns he notices Islam portrayed in a positive way and get influenced by it and eventually accept Islam with Allah”s guidance, insha Allah.
The ICN appears to have an intensive focus on proselytizing Islam. It’s Imam, Ossam Bahloul, the former Imam at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, “completed his (MS) with high honors in which his thesis was the establishment of a Da’awah curriculum aimed at secularists, atheists, Christians, Jews, and Muslims.”
Rashed Fakhruddin, president of the ICN, “has been coordinating and providing presentations on Islam to universities, schools, leadership groups and churches upon request in order to help develop a better understanding of Muslims.” At the start of this school year, Metro Nashville Public Schools featured Fakhruddin at the social studies in-service for middle and high school teachers. Fakhruddin was a founding member of the American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC). In 2012, AMAC became a formal affiliate of Islamic Networks Group (ING) and received training to use ING’s prepared scripts and slide presentations “to educate about American Muslims and their faith as a means of promoting religious literacy, mutual respect, and understanding.”
It was reported in 2013, that students from a neighboring county took a field trip to the ICN where they listened to passages from the Quran, snacked on punch and cookies and were offered free copies of the Quaran.