School Cancels Muslim Speaker Over Threats Against Teacher

Joshua Gill | Religion Reporter

School officials canceled an event featuring a Muslim woman teaching middle schoolers about Islam after citizens of the Connecticut town threatened the teacher organizing it.

Superintendent Susan Moreau of Northeast Middle School in Bristol canceled plans for Annam Choudhry to speak to a middle school class about Islam after allegedly threatening emails and social media posts indicated that going through with the talk would be potentially harmful for the teacher who organized it, according to the Hartford Courant.

Bristol citizens allegedly began posting threatening comments to a Facebook group called Bristol Talks and then supposedly sent threatening emails to the school when plans for the Nov. 20 speaking event, as described in a letter sent to parents by the organizing teacher, were posted to the Facebook group.

“I canceled this speaker because the teacher felt threatened — she was getting phone calls and emails that were, in her words, threatening,” Moreau said according to the Hartford Courant.

Chris Wilson, chairman of the school board, corroborated the claims of threatening emails and of the ensuing security concern, but did not clarify the content of the alleged hostile messages.

“I understand some emails to the principal and the teacher were very confrontational,” Wilson said. “The superintendent thought for safety reasons we should pull the program.”

The Facebook group is closed, making posts visible only to those who are confirmed as members of the group. Police also said that no such threats were reported to them, according to the Associated Press.

Members of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) decried the school administration’s decision to cancel the talk, saying that doing so only makes concession for the people who allegedly levied threats.

“We are concerned that Bristol public schools would seemingly bow to public pressure in this manner,” said Farhan Memon, chairman of the Connecticut chapter of CAIR. “Canceling speakers outright emboldens individuals and organizations in Bristol who are Islamophobic and anti-Semitic.”

Moreau nevertheless stood by her concern for safety and said that in lieu of Choudhry’s speaking engagement she would like to organize a series of talks with representatives of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism for one night in the High School Auditorium that would be optional for students.

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