FFRF objects to Va. professor’s promotion of Islam in classroom

A Virginia professor's "Introduction to Islam" course crosses the line from objective religious teaching to proselytization, says the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The national organization of atheists and agnostics, based in Madison, Wis., has more than 21,500 members, including 525 in Virginia. FFRF sent a letter last month asking Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) in Annandale, Va., to investigate Professor Daoud Nassimi's class, which is described as an objective investigation of Islam "in its historical, religious, and political dimensions."

Instead, "this class has been used to proselytize students and advance belief in the existence of a god in an attempt to prove religious belief correct," wrote Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott and Legal Fellow Katherine Paige. An audio recording and PowerPoint slides from a lecture on the existence of god obtained by FFRF show that Nassimi's class is "a one-sided monologue by a government-paid employee whose agenda is to show the truth of religion – namely, the existence of a god."

Nassimi spent one class teaching students that the "use of logical inference confirms the existence of God," presenting arguments characteristic of creationism/intelligent design. He promoted an Islamic view of God, saying, "[i]f infinite, then [God] cannot be partitioned into different roles," and "finite beings cannot claim incarnation of infinity," effectively rejecting the Christian trinity.

"There must be a power of intellect, of thinking, knowledge, wisdom, all of that behind this universe. Common sense takes us to that point," said Nassimi. He also claimed common sense "cannot accept that the heart works for itself."

Nassimi also has belittled atheists and other non-believers. When one student expressed concern about the lecture on the class webpage, Nassimi responded, "The reality is that science does not offer any support for the claims of those who deny God, but they are using science as a cover to hide their agenda. Please note that this course is 'Introduction to Islam.' So, I will be offering Islam's position and views all along the semester, whether anyone likes it or not."

In one lecture, he called people who deny God's existence "worse than animals," because they have human intelligence and still "[go] so low and wild to deny the source of their own existence."

"The primary legal issue with this class is Prof. Nassimi's active promotion of his personal religious views. This is not a question of Prof. Nassimi's free speech – Prof. Nassimi is abusing his government position," wrote Elliott and Paige.

The letter concluded by asking NOVA to thoroughly investigate the class and, if the allegations are confirmed, to remove Nassimi from teaching the class. "Given his inability to separate his teaching duties from his religious sensibilities, we fail to see how he can conduct a collegiate course on Islam or religion," FFRF said.

An attorney for the Virginia Community College System responded Oct. 17, informing FFRF that it was in the process of conducting a review.

Listen to selected audio clips from Nassimi’s class.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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