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Pulaski student objects to film on Islam

SOMERSET — A teacher at Pulaski County High School showed students a film that was hateful toward Islam and then inappropriately discussed female genital circumcision, the father of one class member has complained.

The film included images of dead bodies, beheadings, bombings and bloody children, said Bill Cruey.

Cruey said his daughter Amber, a 17-year-old senior, was so upset by the images and discussion that she couldn't even talk about it, but rather wrote down her reactions.

"The video, in general, was terrifying, gruesome, disturbing, and hateful," Amber wrote. "Not only did the video permanently scar my brain, but also (the teacher's) descriptions over the genital mutilation tortured my thoughts."

Sonya Wilds, an assistant superintendent in the school system, said the teacher showed the film on Sept. 11 in order to commemorate the anniversary of the terror attacks in New York and Washington and generate discussion on the dangers of extremism.

What the teacher was trying to do wasn't a problem, and he had no bad intent, but school officials agree it wasn't proper to show the film to the class of 10 juniors and seniors, Wilds said.

"We absolutely agreed it was not an appropriate media clip to use," she said.

Wilds said school officials apologized to the parent who complained. She did not identify Bill Cruey, but he confirmed he was the parent who objected to the film being shown.

Only one parent complained, Wilds said.

Superintendent Tim Eaton also addressed the issue with the teacher. The school system would not identify the teacher or say what action Eaton took because it is a personnel matter.

Amber identified him in a statement as Michael Foncannon, a teacher in the Junior ROTC program. Foncannon was not available for comment Tuesday after school.

The 15-minute film at issue is Fitna, produced by Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician who has argued that Islam promotes hate and violence and warned that the "Islamic incursion" of Europe must be stopped.

It contains graphic images of the attack on the World Trade Center and other terrorist attacks, as well as a beheading, the execution of a woman, and children with blood on their faces. It says Islam seeks to destroy Western civilization.

"When I heard about it, it made me sick," Bill Cruey said. "I never would have expected that that film would be shown in public school."

Jenny Sutton-Amr, executive director of the Kentucky Islamic Resource Group in Lexington, said the film promotes false, inflammatory stereotypes that Islam promotes violence.

"Islam is definitely against violence," she said. "The notion of killing innocent people ... does not have a place in Islam."

Many religions, Islam included, are susceptible to being distorted, but the fact is that Muslim leaders the world over condemned the 9/11 terror attacks, Sutton-Amr said.

The subject of female circumcision — or mutilation, as many see it — came up in the discussion after the film because there were images of women with blood on them, Amber said.

Some people associate female circumcision with Islam because it is practiced in some areas with large Muslim populations, but it pre-dates Islam and is a cultural, not a religious, practice, said Sutton-Amr.

It is also practiced in some Christian areas, she said.

Amber said the film caused her to hate Muslims — exactly the kind of reaction Muslims worry about.

She said she got past that after talking with her parents, and she now thinks the film was wrong. Amber, who transferred out of the class after the film was shown, said she wants an apology from the teacher and the school to bring in someone to talk to students about a correct view of Islam.

Cruey said he would like the school to acknowledge Amber did the right thing to raise concerns about the film and to provide counseling for her.