Islam bulletin board removed from Wichita school

8/21/2013

WICHITA (AP) — A bulletin board outside fourth-grade classrooms at a Wichita elementary school depicting the Five Pillars of Islam has been removed after a photo posted on Facebook drew condemnation over what school officials called a misunderstanding.

WICHITA (AP) — A bulletin board outside fourth-grade classrooms at a Wichita elementary school depicting the Five Pillars of Islam has been removed after a photo posted on Facebook drew condemnation over what school officials called a misunderstanding.

The bulletin board at Minneha Core Knowledge Magnet Elementary featured five white, construction-paper columns and the words, "The Five Pillars of Islam," as part of the school's efforts to educate students on the world's five major religions, The Wichita Eagle reported.

But a photograph of the board, reportedly taken on the first day of school Wednesday, was posted over the weekend on a Facebook page titled, "Prepare to Take America Back." The photo has since been shared on several conservative blogs.

"Students at Minneha Core Knowledge Elementary School in Wichata (sic) Kansas were met with this their first day of school," a caption under the photo said. "This is a school that banned all forms of Christian prayer. . This can not stand."

As of Monday, the photo had been shared more than 3,500 times.

The material is part of the fourth-grade history and geography curriculum at Minneha, school district spokeswoman Susan Arensman said.

The school is the district's only remaining core knowledge magnet. Its curriculum, overseen by the national Core Knowledge Foundation, introduces children in early grades to major world religions, beginning with a focus on geography and major symbols and figures.

The Five Pillars are five basic acts in Islam, considered obligatory by believers. They are: the confession of faith, prayerful worship, fasting during the month of Ramadan, charitable giving, and a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime.

"The purpose is not to explore the matters of theology, but to understand the place of religion and religious ideas in history," the district said Monday in a statement.

Despite what was said on the Facebook entry, Christian prayer has not been banned in Wichita public schools, Arensman said, adding that students and staff have the right to engage in private prayer or religious activities as long as they're not disruptive.

A painting of the Last Supper also hangs in the school as part of the study of art and the Renaissance period, the district noted.

The photo "of a bulletin board without context is misleading, and some have taken it out of context without having all the information," the district said. "Because of the misunderstanding, the bulletin board has been taken down until the unit is taught later this fall."

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