Sometimes all it takes is for someone to take a principled stand against people who intimidate by fear and hatred. That’s what Hillsborough County school board chair Candy Olson did at a school board meeting this month when confronted by parents who were upset the school system allowed a Muslim to speak to classrooms about Islam.
They (assembled parents) said the presentation by CAIR’s Hassan Shibly — made to an advanced-placement world history class in November at Steinbrenner High — was a threat to children, to schools, to America.
“As a father to a child, this breaks my heart to know this is even considered in the schools,” said William Terrell of Tampa.
“CAIR funds homicide bombers to do what they do. They fund the ability of rockets being shot into Israel,” said Ryan Italiano, an 11-year-old who is home-schooled.
“Why you’ll let this religion be taught in our schools but you won’t let the religion that this country was made of be taught in the schools. What’s the point in teaching religion that caused the twin towers to fall down?”
Finally, after 17 speakers on the topic, and with dozens more anti-CAIR forces in the crowd who didn’t speak, school board Chairwoman Candy Olson had heard enough. And she unleashed on the group.
“Our teachers do need to give our students a broad view of the world,” she said, clearly irritated. “The Muslim faith is here to stay. I don’t think we can protect our children from the fact that there are people in this world who believe in Islam.”
She called those in the audience out of touch and criticized what she labeled a negative and mostly anonymous e-mail campaign that she said was meant to intimidate.
“This was one speaker for part of one class. This wasn’t an indoctrination,” Olson said. “How dare you show such disdain for people who are by and large competent professionals? It is essential, it is imperative we support our teachers in showing a broad view of the world.”
Olson said that despite speakers’ statements to the contrary, there were plenty of opportunities for other faiths to be present in the schools. After all, Olson said, there are Bible studies and clubs such as Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Instead of being bullied, cowed or merely quiet, Olson took a stand on the issue and held her ground. She needs to be congratulated for that. Too many have capitulated to assembled voices of hatred and not defended the rights and responsibilities we all have and share, regardless of faith, color or creed. Olson would have none of that however and held fast. Would that American politicians on both sides of politics had such bravery; it’s a trait that’s sorely missing in them. Kudos, Ms Olson!