New Jersey middle school apologizes for teaching that the Islamic State is a terrorist organization after backlash from Muslim group

The quiz prompt asked students to select one answer that went with the description, "It is a terrorist organization that commits acts of violence, destroys cultural artifacts, and encourages loss of life in order to achieve its goal of global rule under strict Islamic Sharia law." 

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

A New Jersey middle school has apologized after a quiz stated that the Islamic State is a terrorist organization. A Muslim group urged its followers to "call and email everyone that you can" in response to the quiz prompt. The Islamic State, otherwise known as ISIS, is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States.

The group, "Teaching While Muslim" (TWM), criticized the quiz answer on social media, writing in an Instagram post on Wednesday, "We have seen anti Muslim & anti Palestinian sentiments, teachers, and content in our schools over and over again. But we must not allow it to continue. Call and email everyone that you can. This is NOT okay on a million levels. Go. And yes. This is real." Included in the post were the hashtags "anti-Muslim racism" and "Islamophobia."

The Director of National Intelligence says of "ISIS is a Salafi-jihadist group that has conducted and inspired terrorist attacks worldwide, resulting in thousands killed or injured."

"The US State Department designated AQI, ISIS’s predecessor, as a foreign terrorist organization in December 2004—a designation that remains in effect for ISIS. Several ISIS leaders have also been named Specially Designated Global Terrorists, including former leaders Hajji ‘Abdallah in 2020, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2011, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2003."

The quiz prompt in question asked seventh graders at Schuyler Colfax Middle School in Wayne, New Jersey, to select one answer that went along with the description, "It is a terrorist organization that commits acts of violence, destroys cultural artifacts, and encourages loss of life in order to achieve its goal of global rule under strict Islamic Sharia law." 

The correct response to the prompt was the Islamic State, with other responses including Peru’s The Shining Path, al Qaeda, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. TWM added in a statement that the history quiz "wrongly implies that terrorism is a fundamental part of an 'Islamic State,' and has a 'goal of achieving global rule under strict sharia law.'" The group said that this is "anti-Muslim hate" and "factually inaccurate."

"This is a continuation of US and Zionist propaganda aimed at fear mongering against Muslims AND Palestinians. Why is the PLO on that quiz? This is indoctrinating children to hate Muslims and making Muslim students targets of bigotry and prejudice in a place where they should feel safe."

The group added that the seventh grade teacher "must be held accountable for this misinformation," and included a list of school staff to contact.

The group Wayne for Palestine posted the response from the school, which stated, "Yesterday a concern was brought to my attention in regard to a question that was included on an assessment in one of our classes. We immediately launched an investigation into this matter."

"The question was offensive and contrary to values of respect, inclusivity, and cultural sensitivity that we foster at Schuyler. A priority is always to cultivate safe learning environments for all students regardless of background or belief.

"We apologize for this incident and understand the impact and deep concern."

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