Catholic teacher gave 6th graders reading that described Islam as "immoral and corrupting"

Source: Twitter
Source: Twitter

A teacher at Blessed Trinity Catholic School in Ocala, Florida, assigned readings to his sixth grade students that described Prophet Muhammad as a "villain" and made several hostile claims about Islam as a religion, the Huffington Post reported.

Mark Smythe handed out copies of a 19th-century Catholic text that called Islam a "monstrous mixture" of faiths that contained "ridiculous, immoral and corrupting" doctrines." 

Jacquelyn Flanigan, an associate superintendent for the Diocese of Orlando's Catholic Schools, said the teacher has been reprimanded, but did not specify exactly what actions were taken.

"We have spoken to the principal of Blessed Trinity Catholic School, Ocala, and to the teacher in question and have reprimanded the teacher for this unfortunate exhibit of disrespect," Flanigan said in a statement.

Christopher Mathias, a reporter for the Huffington Post, tweeted photos of the readings.

One of the readings included a made-up dialogue between a father and his two children. The father explains that Jesus is far more superior than Muhammad. In the dialogue, Muhammad is mentioned as someone who "degrades and dishonors human nature and by placing all happiness in sensual pleasures, reduces man to the level of filthy animals." 

The reading also referred to Muhammad as a "ignoramus," "charlatan," "impostor" and "false prophet." According to the Huffington Post, the text also said that Muhammad "couldn't even write" and "propagated his religion, not through miracles or persuasive words, but by military force." It also called the Qu'ran a "series of errors, the most enormous ones being against mortality and the worship of the true God."

The readings came from an excerpt from priest Giovanni Bosco in 1853. Bosco was canonized as a saint in 1934. It has also often been cited in anti-Muslim and white nationalist forums, the Huffington Post reported.

For many Muslims, Muhammad is revered as the last messenger of God and has been credited for preaching equality and tolerance amongst gender, race, class and disability. In the Qu'ran, Jesus is mentioned 25 times — and with high respect. Virgin Mary also has a whole chapter dedicated to her in the Islamic holy book. The Qu'ran also describes Allah as the same God of Abraham, Moses and Jesus. It also tells that true believers of Islam should respect the Bible and the Jewish scripture as it serves as divine revelations from God Himself.

The readings at Blessed Trinity Catholic have caused a lot of public backlash.

Humeraa Qamar, a Muslim and a mother of a daughter who attended Blessed Trinity, told Huffington Post she emailed the school to say the reading "caused a lot of distress to the students in [the] class and also understandingly to the Muslim Americans living in Ocala, Florida, including our family." 

David Kaiman, a rabbi of the Congregation B'nai Israel in Gainesville, also emailed Blessed Trinity to say the text is "dangerous and destructive and feeds those who seek to hate vilify," and that it "expresses a hate language that is disturbing." He also said the reading's "tone and factual content is outdated and not reflective of Catholic doctrine."

"I take pride to quote the words of John Paul II in speaking of Islam in 1985," Kaiman said in his email. "'[There] are the important differences which we can accept with the humility and respect, in mutual tolerance; this is a mystery about which, I am certain, God will one day enlighten us.'"

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Sarah A. Harvard

Sarah is a staff writer covering religion, race and politics. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Atlantic, Slate, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, and VICE. Send tips and feedback: sharvard@mic.com

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