Religion in Society

Muslim Parents Say Social Studies Teacher Called Their Son A ‘Terrorist’

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

The Muslim parents of a middle school student in Grand Rapids, Michigan, are suing a substitute teacher who they say called their son a “terrorist” who carries “the mark of the beast” and worships a “fake religion.”

Semir and Elma Maric filed suit on behalf of their son against Professional Educational Services Group LLC and the teacher, Janice McKay, in Kent County Circuit Court.

The family claims that on March 4 McKay, a sixth-grade language arts and social studies teacher, overheard their son discussing Islam with another student at Kraft Meadows Middle School. She then allegedly scolded the boy for nearly an hour and told him to pray to Jesus.

"McKay said many inappropriate and hateful things to [the boy],” the complaint states. “These things included, but were not limited to, telling [him]: That he was a terrorist; That [his] religion was fake and that his God was fake; That [he] needed to go home and pray to Jesus; That it was stupid for [him] to pray five times a day; That it was stupid for Muslim women to wear headscarves; and That [he] had the mark of the beast and would be killed."

The Marics say their son "missed an entire class period in another classroom because he was too afraid to leave” while he was being berated. The family accuses McKay of intimidation, false imprisonment and abuse.

At least "two of his friends came down the hallway several times and were able to hear many of the hateful things that McKay was saying to (him)," according to the complaint.

The Marics seek compensatory and punitive damages for ethnic intimidation, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and negligent training and supervision.

The public school district is a not a party to the complaint.

Islamophobia is currently making headlines in Australia, after the Sydney Opera House cancelled a controversial talk by Muslim activist Uthman Badar. The talk was part of an series called the Festival of Dangerous Ideas.

The Sydney Opera House claimed that Badar’s speech wouldn’t provoke discussion but rather violence.

"The Festival of Dangerous Ideas is intended to be a provocation to thought and discussion, rather than simply a provocation," the opera house wrote on Facebook. "It is always a matter of balance and judgment, and in this case a line has been crossed."

Badar was going to speak on the topic of “honor killing,” in which a family or group kills a member for dishonoring or bringing shame upon it.

"It is clear from the public reaction that the title has given the wrong impression of what Mr. Badar intended to discuss,” the opera house wrote. "Neither Mr. Badar, the St James Ethics Centre, nor Sydney Opera House in any way advocates honor killings or condones any form of violence against women."

Badar claims the decision was one of Islamophobia and proves “that freedom of speech is a tool of power and nothing more.”

Sources: Courthouse News Service, The Age