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Schools in US county close over Islamic calligraphy work

 Every single school in a Virginia county in the U.S. was closed on Friday after parents of students reacted angrily after a teacher handed out a homework assignment on Islamic calligraphy. 

“While there has been no specific threat of harm to students, schools and school offices will be closed Friday, December 18, 2015,” according to the Augusta County Public schools official website.

During a world geography class at Riverheads High School in Staunton, in a class on major world religions, reportedly on Thursday, teacher Cheryl LaPorte asked students to copy a religious Islamic calligraphy.

After students took it home, the parents saw the assignment as an attempt to convert their children to Islam, according to CNN. They called and emailed the school, some of them demanding the teacher be fired, the media outlet said.

“I will not have my children sit under a woman who indoctrinates them with the Islam religion when I am a Christian,” a parent, Kimberly Herndon told the CNN affiliate WHSV.

According to Augusta County Schools official Eric Bond, neither of these lessons, nor any other lessons in the world geography course were “an attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion or a request for students to renounce their own faith or profess any belief”.

But still, the school removed the shahada – the Islamic statement of faith – calligraphy from the world religion instruction after the reactions.

On Thursday, a New York Times report revealed that hate crimes against Muslim Americans and mosques across the U.S. had tripled after the deadly attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.

The study by a California State University research group shows that the hate crimes consist of assaults on hijab-wearing students, arson and vandalism on mosques as well as  shootings and death threats towards Islamic-owned businesses, the media outlet said.

“The terrorist attacks, coupled with the ubiquity of these anti-Muslim stereotypes seeping into the mainstream, have emboldened people to act upon this fear and anger,” Brian Levin, a criminologist at California State University and head of the research, told the daily.

The study shows that there has been an average of 12.6 suspected hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. a month in recent years, according to F.B.I. data, which the group analyzed.

However, the rate of attacks has tripled since the attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, carried out by Daesh, where 130 people were killed and dozens left injured.

Since then, 38 attacks across the U.S. were regarded as anti-Islamic in nature, according to the analysis, which was based on news reports and civil rights groups.

Eighteen of the 38 attacks have come since the deadly shooting in San Bernardino on Dec. 2, which was conducted by an allegedly Muslim couple, Syed Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, who killed 14 people and injured dozens others.

“I’m saddened by this but not surprised,” Levin said. “Whenever we see intergroup conflicts making headlines, we often see a spike in hate crime accompanying it.”

The research comes following several anti-Muslim cases, including a teenage girl in New York being attacked by three boys who tried to take off her hijab, punched her and called her “ISIS” (Daesh).

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