The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Evangelist tells students: Shun Muslims

Yonat Shimron and Kinea White Epps
(Raleigh) News & Observer

RALEIGH - A national Muslim advocacy group has rebuked the Wake County Public School system for allowing a Christian evangelist to speak at Enloe High School and distribute pamphlets denouncing Islam.

The Council on American Islamic Relations said the school system will have created a "discriminatory, hostile learning environment," violating federal civil rights law, if it does not investigate the incident and apologize to students.

The complaint stems from a guest appearance last week in several classes by Kamil Solomon, a Raleigh-based Christian evangelist, who urged students to shun Muslims.

"When you bring in somebody to distribute hate-filled literature without an opportunity for rebuttal, you have a disturbing situation," said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the national council, known as CAIR. "These students are obliged to be in the classroom and listen to this speaker who is presented as an authority figure by the teacher."

'Don't marry a Muslim'

Solomon's appearance Friday in teacher Robert Escamilla's social studies classes at Enloe, a magnet school for gifted and talented students, shocked many who took the pamphlets home and showed them to their parents, students said. One pamphlet, comparing Jesus with Muhammad, says the Muslim prophet "enslaved people, abused women and taught Muslims to terrorize non-Muslims and force them into Islam."

"He basically told us Muslims were bad and we should convert to Christianity," said Alyssa Kaszycki, 14, of Cary, who heard Solomon during a freshman seminar class. "He told all the girls we should never marry a Muslim man because they would take away our freedom and beat us."

She said Solomon was their only guest speaker this semester.

Solomon, an Egyptian-born Christian who runs Kamil International Ministries Organization based in Raleigh, did not return phone messages or e-mail messages. Escamilla declined to speak about the incident.

Michael Evans, Wake County schools spokesman, said the district was looking into the matter.

"We're going to take the accusations seriously," Evans said. "It is part of our ongoing investigation. We need to ascertain what happened and what comments were made."

School principal Beth Cochran offered a written response to an inquiry by the Raleigh-based Muslim American Public Affairs Council.

"I assure you that teachers make sure that students know that his presentation was one person's perspective and not representative of all Muslims," Cochran said. She also said that the school champions "the free exchange of ideas."

Parallel drawn to KKK

A spokesman for the Muslim American council said he was seeking assurances from the Wake County schools that the incident would not be repeated and the people responsible for it would be held accountable.

"There should be some kind of system where proselytizing is not allowed," said Marc Conaghan, spokesman for the Raleigh-based Muslim group.

Parents, too, said the school's response wasn't adequate. Tariq Butt of Raleigh, whose daughter, Saira, is a freshman, said the principal's suggestion that Solomon's presentation was just "one person's perspective," was disingenuous.

"It wasn't opinion. It was an outright attack and fabrication," said Butt, who is a Muslim. "Can we allow the KKK to distribute hate-filled literature in school?"

Butt, who sent Escamilla e-mail, said he wasn't satisfied with his response. In an e-mail message to Butt, Escamilla said he did not know Solomon before inviting him to class and wasn't aware of Solomon's Web site, www.kimo4jesus.org, which announces that, "Our mission is to raise an awareness of the danger of Islam among Christians and equip them to share Jesus with Muslims."

Escamilla said school principal Cochran asked him to defer all questions to her. Cochran could not be reached. Calls to Wake Superintendent Del Burns were not returned Wednesday.

Lisa Kaszycki, Alyssa's mother, said she contacted the school and got a short reply saying they were "dealing with the situation."

"I'll be interested to see what the outcome was," Kaszycki said.

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