A public charter school in Natomas is receiving scrutiny over a student organized event on campus called Hijab Day.
“It’s not school sponsored, it’s not school run, we’re not forcing an opinion on anyone,” Natomas Pacific Pathways Prep Principal Tom Rutten said Wednesday.
Rutten told FOX40 Hijab Day was part of a senior project, an opportunity for students to learn how to properly wear a headscarf, a symbol of modesty in Muslim culture.
It was not mandatory.
“Hijab Day is a way of teaching tolerance and understanding of others,” Rutten said.
“It taught a lot about respecting one another and to accept that some people wear headscarves” a student named Amna said.
But not everyone got that message.
A FOX40 viewer sent in a link to an article on the website “JihadWatch.” The writer of the article claimed that Hijab Day presented obvious religion versus state issues. He also claimed that the school’s principal urged everyone to participate, in return, asking those concerned to call and complain.
Principal Rutten told FOX40 within a few hours, he took at least 20 calls from people in states across the country.
“Some people just wanted to yell. Pretty closed-minded,” Ruten said.
The student organizer of Hijab Day declined to talk to FOX40 on camera, because her family was concerned for her safety. She did, however, respond in writing:
“At a time when anti-Muslim sentiment is growing, I wanted to let my classmates and teachers know about the challenges that young Muslim women face when they put on a headscarf. It is unfortunate that a small effort to promote mutual understanding would provoke such a hate-filled and irrational response.
“NP3 Hijab Day was part of my Senior Project, meant to bring awareness to my campus about the misconceptions surrounding Islam, particularly those surrounding the headscarf. I invited a speaker to talk to faculty about addressing Islamophobia in the classroom and the challenges in the Muslim world, and they appreciated the open and frank discussion.
“The irrational reaction by some intolerant individuals is similar to the many manufactured controversies nationwide over the teaching of basic information about Islam, the faith of one-fifth of the world’s population, in public schools. In many other cases, any discussion of Islam or American Muslims brings about this reaction.
“The person who promoted the misinformation about this issue, Robert Spencer, is one of the most notorious Islamophobes in America.
“This extreme reaction clearly demonstrates why this presentation was needed in the first place.”
Rutten said the campus has many student organized cultural days, as a way to teach and understand diversity.
“Our kids are responsible citizens, they get it. My fear is, when they leave this campus, the world’s a really different place,” Rutten said.