Tennessee schoolchildren were taught the state's new social studies unit on Islam weeks ago. Nonetheless, an estimated 300 people crammed into the Christian Life First Church in Sparta Tuesday night, for a forum aimed at continuing the fight.
Anthony Wright, whose children range in age from 5 to 24, summed up the thinking of many. He said the new world history textbooks distributed this year to local seventh-graders pose a danger to all Tennesseans.
"I mean it only takes one child to take that book home and say the Five Pillars of the Islamic faith and convert, right?" he said.
"What was it in Chattanooga just a couple of months ago, one kid come right out of high school, went and shot five of our military?"
The controversy over a unit on Islam in Tennessee's textbooks is showing no signs of abating. Opponents around the state are pressuring their local school boards into returning books that they say are biased in favor of the Islamic faith.
Wright is the chairman of a group that calls itself Citizens Against Islamic Indoctrination. They're trying to get their local school board to return the "My World" textbooks to their publisher, Pearson.
School board members have refused, so far. But opponents are preparing to sue, saying they've been illegally cut off at meetings.
They're also airing radio ads calling out specific members of the school board, circulating a petition calling for their resignation and planning a boycott of their businesses. They expect the fight in Sparta to stretch well into November.
Inside, attendees heard a nearly two-hour lecture from Usama Dakdok, an Egyptian Christian who now lives in Missouri. Dakdok offered his take on Muslim history, disputing claims that Muslims had advanced the arts and sciences or that the religion had spread through Africa and Asia peacefully. His take on the textbook was that it contained "propaganda, hogwash and lies" and said most Christians are "naive" about Islam.
The controversy is one of many continuing to smolder around the state. Last week, Williamson County's school board debated a resolution condemning textbooks from another publisher. They, like the ones in Sparta, were written to meet the state's new social studies standards, which call for teaching about world religions in a historical context.
Organizers say they plan to keep pressing such fights before school boards until state leaders are forced to abandon the standards.