Students in a California school district are prohibited from drawing religious figures of any faith after a parent complained about a seventh-grade assignment to sketch the Islamic religion's Prophet Muhammad, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.
The ban was announced on Nov. 4 after inquiries by a Los Angeles Daily News reporter.
"I have directed all staff to permanently suspend the practice of drawing or depiction of any religious leader,” Brent Woodard, superintendent of the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District, told Los Angeles Daily News. “I am certain this teacher did not intend to offend anyone and in fact was simply teaching respect and tolerance for all cultures."
The students were asked to sketch the Islamic prophet as part of a vocabulary lesson in a seventh-grade history class. A workbook, "Vocabulary Pictures: The Rise of Islam," included blank spaces where students were instructed to sketch Muhammad, as well as the Quran and Mecca, reports Los Angeles Daily News.
While images of Muhammad aren't prohibited in the Quran itself, most branches of Islam oppose depictions of the prophet, as well as depictions of Jesus and Moses, as a measure against "idol worship."
"The prophet himself was aware that if people saw his face portrayed by people, they would soon start worshiping him," Akbar Ahmed, an Islamic Studies professor at American University, told CNN earlier this year. "So he himself spoke against such images, saying 'I'm just a man.'"
Depicting Muhammad has proved deadly in the past — in January, two brothers attacked the Paris offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 11 people. The killers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, were reportedly motivated by the magazine's previous satirical pokes at Islam, including a cartoon of Muhammad on the cover of the magazine's November 2011 issue, according to CNN.
In May, two men — roommates Elton Simpson and Nadir Hamid Soofi of Phoenix, Arizona — opened fire outside a "Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest" in North Garland, Texas. The men, who wore body armor and were carrying assault rifles, were shot and killed by a traffic officer on duty outside the exhibit, CNN reported.
The ban in Acton-Ague Dulce Unified School District was sparked by a complaint from Palmdale resident Melinda Van Stone, whose 12-year-old son brought the workbook home from school, according to Los Angeles Daily News. Acton is a rural community about 50 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
“It’s not appropriate to have our children go to school and learn how to insult a religious group,” Van Stone told the newspaper.