The chairwoman of the Chesapeake, Virginia, school board has drawn criticism after posting an image to her personal Facebook that some say is overly critical of Muslims.
The post, which has since been taken down, is a cartoon that reads, “Muslims hate pork, beer, dogs, bikinis, Jesus, and freedom of speech. My question is, what the hell do they come to America for?!”
Christie New Craig shared the cartoon on Aug. 4, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
M'hammed Abdous, president of the Muslim Community of Tidewater, recently told the paper that the cartoon was upsetting to him. He added that he learned about the cartoon from a Chesapeake resident.
“I found it saddening and disappointing that kind of language came from someone involved in educating children,” Abdous said.
Craig, who was elected to the school board in 2010 and became chairwoman in 2014, admitted that she had shared the cartoon on Facebook last month.
“I did not post that maliciously,” she told paper last week.
During a recent phone interview with WAVY News, Craig elaborated on the situation.
“I merely shared it. I did not make a comment, and I’m just shocked with everything going on in our country – police officers are losing their lives, people are homeless and people don’t have jobs – that a political cartoon would cause this much stir,” she said during the interview.
“I share a lot of stuff, a lot of jokes and whether I support it or not, I share stuff,” she added later in the interview. “[It] doesn’t mean I agree with it. It does mean I have a right to expression and free speech.”
Although the post has been removed from Craig's Facebook page, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, has asked the school board to address it.
CAIR sent a letter to board Vice Chairman C. Jeff Bunn, and the letter was also sent to other board members, Superintendent Dr. James T. Roberts and the clerk of the board, according to a news release cited by WAVY.
“The Chesapeake Public Schools Board’s silence on this issue will inevitably be viewed as acceptance and approval of anti-Muslim bigotry,” the letter read in part. “We therefore formally request that the board take up this important issue at its next meeting on Monday, September 14. The board must send a message to students and parents of all faiths and backgrounds in the district and the state that they deserve equal respect and support.”
The issue, however, was not brought up at Monday’s meeting, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
“We do not have a statement at this time," the school's public information officer told WAVY. "If the School Board does issue a statement, we will release it immediately.”
Craig told WAVY she would “absolutely not” resign over the controversy.
“If I offended someone, I am sorry that they were offended,” she added.
Abdous said he would like Craig to learn from the experience and even learn something about Islam in the process. He noted to The Virginian-Pilot, for instance, that Muslims don’t hate Jesus as the post suggests. Instead they are taught that Jesus was a prophet and a holy person.
"I think perhaps the best option for her would be to get more information,” Abdous said.
That’s an option that Craig seemed willing to explore.
"I don't have a problem with anyone calling me and educating," she told the paper.
The board's next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 28.
Photo credit: Facebook post via The Virginian-Pilot