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Free-range Thoughts

Marinating in the Mooc

Scenario 4: ISFC and SAC

Behar is an 18-year-old senior at Reagan Public High School. He was born in the United States, the son of Iraqi refugees and he is Muslim. Except for one year, Behar has lived in the United States his entire life. When he was 16 years old, he lived abroad in Pakistan for one year, with relatives.

Since his time in Pakistan, his friends have noticed that Behar has changed dramatically. Whereas before he liked to party and drink, now he rarely goes to parties and refuses to touch alcohol. He also brings his prayer rug to school and observes each call to prayer which he monitors from a website that he also uses to make charitable contributions.

Pursuant to school rules, he has organized an Islamic club at school, calling it The Islamic Students and Friends Club. The Club’s charter calls for its members to enhance respect and understanding of all religions and to actively work for world peace. The Club boasts a membership of about 4 core members, with another half-dozen 6 casual members. Club activities include visiting local mosques, going to lectures by Islamic scholars, a monthly dinner at the home of a local Muslim family, raising charitable funds for impoverished Muslims, and discussing the role of Islam in the 21st Century.

The Islamic Students and Friends Club has engaged in lively debates with other student organizations and clubs, including the Student Agnostic Collective, an organization with the stated mission of “promoting open-minded discussion about secular philosophy and the problematic nature of religion in modern society.” The ISFC and SAC have engaged in mostly civil exchanges at school, and have carried on extensive debates in class and online, but each club has managed to outrage the other group by their actions. SAC members routinely wear “Nietzsche says God is Dead” t-shirts to school, and have been heard joking about the necessity of keeping Guantanamo Bay open because “crazy jihadists need a place to sleep too.”

Jane is a member of SAC and her parents have been very supportive of the club; they’ve arranged speakers, helped set up a club website, and have sponsored club dinners and outings. Jane regularly shared the online exchanges between club members with her parents. Jane’s parents saw some emails sent by as part of a debate between members of both clubs, and in an online wall post, Behar referenced several websites in support of his arguments. After following up with some research on the websites mentioned, Jane’s parents discovered that Behar was referencing a fundamentalist Muslim website that was anti-American, promoted the use of violence against its “enemies” and “the forces of Satan,” and urged financial support for the families of “martyrs.” Not knowing where else to turn, her parents sought help by talking to the administrators at Reagan.

In response, the administration began to secretly monitor Behar’s internet use while at school. It was during this monitoring that the administration discovered that the internet site that Behar used for calls to prayer had links to websites that were allied with radical Islamic theology, including the one found by Jane’s parents.

The administration promptly called Behar into the office. He was sent home for the remainder of the day and temporarily suspended until his parents could come into school to discuss this matter. He was given a note to deliver to his parents explaining that Behar was inappropriately using the school internet server and that he faced further disciplinary action. The administration also temporarily suspended the charter of The Islamic Students and Friends Club, notifying all Club members and their parents. Later that same day, Behar’s parents called to schedule a meeting for the next Monday morning. They requested and received permission to bring their Imam to the meeting. Their Imam was well known in the community for his fiery sermons, although Behar’s parents personally disavowed some of his more inciteful language, such as “damn America.” Behar’s parents have also discovered that websites mentioned by SAC members in the online exchanges contained derogatory material towards Muslims, and links to blogs that advocated the eradication of Muslims in the United States and abroad.

In the meantime, Jane’s parents also contacted several other parents of whom they believed would share their concerns. News of the day and hour of the meeting between the administration and Behar’s parents has become common knowledge. A growing and vocal number of Reagan parents were planning to confront the administration on the day of meeting to address their concerns about this hateful presence within the Reagan community. Some of these parents have already contacted their lawyers, politicians, and religious leaders.

At the same time, Reagan students were speculating wildly about the upcoming meeting and confrontation. Student reaction to this turn of events varies from shock at the injustice facing Behar for simply practicing his religion to anger at Behar for involving the school community in his radical approach to Islam.

As Reagan students, you must determine what action you want taken by the administration, decide how, when, and to whom to present your demands, and what action you are prepared to take to insure that your demands are met. The meeting will not be postponed.


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