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Bristol school cancels Muslim religious event due to community outrage

BRISTOL – A community is sounding off on social media about religion in schools after a Muslim woman was scheduled to speak in a history class.

Last week, a Northeast Middle School teacher sent a letter home to parents about a scheduled speaker. It read that on November 22, a Connecticut woman who started an organization YURSA would be giving a presentation about the Islamic faith.

“Their mission is to train Muslim women to inform others about the Islamic faith and to dispel misconceptions that are prevalent in today’s society. This presentation will enrich our curriculum on world history," the letter read.

The letter made its way to social media and quickly started a debate with community members, some feel religion and school should be separate, others take a different approach.

“How do we teach our children diversity and then go ahead and do something like this?” Bristol Resident Dawn Chagnon said. “It makes for more ignorance of other religions and other cultures and other races, it’s not okay.”

The teacher allegedly began getting threatening messages resulting in the school’s decision to cancel the event.

“My first reaction was here's another example of Islamophobia,” Chairperson of the Connecticut chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-CT) Farhan Memon said. “It should not be controversial to be talking about religion in the context of a social studies class in a secular curriculum.”

He saw the post on Facebook and immediately called the Bristol Public Schools Superintendent to discuss it further.

Memon said she told him she was in favor of having diversity in Bristol schools but the event had to be canceled for safety reasons. There were allegedly threats made against the teacher and the speaker.

According to Memon, the school also canceled a future presentation by a Rabbi who was going to speak about Judaism.

“That's really disheartening because I think rather than succumbing to public pressure, they should have cooperated with the Bristol Police Department and had adequate security there so the curriculum could go forward as planned,” Memon said.

The Bristol Police Department said it had not received any complaints as of yet.

The district is planning to host a panel discussion on world religions at a local high school.

Bristol Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu released a statement saying:

“We are looking forward to hopefully planning a larger community event that would be open to the public, and not just at a school, to further everyone's understanding of diversity and different cultures including religion.”

Superintendent of Schools Bristol Public Schools Susan Kalt Moreau released the following statement:

It is my hope that the opinions of a few Bristol residents are not seen as the opinion of the Bristol community. There was an out-pouring of support for bringing a speaker in to support our curriculum which includes religions of the world. Through a joint effort of many organizations in Bristol, we hope to present a panel discussion consisting of representatives of many religious groups where members of our community including students may learn more about how much the same we all are and the cultural differences that make us all unique.

FOX61 is waiting for a response from the superintendent, Board of Education and scheduled speaker.