RICHMOND—Amid a national wave of anti-Islamic sentiment, school districts across Virginia have closed this morning in response to a fierce backlash over the state’s promotion of Arabic numerals in its official mathematics curriculum. Education officials said that there had been no specific threat of harm to students, but that they had decided to close schools “in an abundance of caution” after a deluge of calls and threats from outraged parents and taxpayers alleging a program of Islamic indoctrination.
Concern over the perceived influence of Islam in public schools started as a local reaction against a world religions assignment in a small Western Virginia school district, but quickly escalated into a statewide furor after a whistle blower within the Virginia Department of Education revealed the agency’s promotion of Arabic numerals as a matter of policy. In a statement released this morning, the VDOE admitted that it requires the use of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 0, but stressed that these Arabic characters have been taught in Virginia schools for centuries and are in no way an attempt to influence students’ religious beliefs. Many Virginians disagree, seeing instead a systemic proselytization of Islam meant to radicalize the state’s children.
The growing scandal over the mathematics curriculum is just one manifestation of a larger suspicion among many Virginians that their state has been corrupted by Islamist influences at the highest levels. A recent Richmond Times-Dispatch poll found that 63% of registered Virginia Republicans believe governor Terry McAuliffe is a Muslim. In Richmond this morning, a group of protesters thronged outside the capitol chanting “commonwealth not caliphate.” One man waved a version of the Virginia flag depicting Virtus standing over a dead Jihadist rather than a dead Tyranny.
Though Virginia is less than 1% Muslim, the Arabic numerals controversy has put the state at the center of a national debate about Muslims in America. This morning, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump released a statement vowing that, if elected president, he would “ban Arabic numerals and ensure American students are learning math in English.” Several other GOP contenders quickly echoed his sentiment.
It is unclear if Virginia schools will reopen after the holiday break and it is yet to be seen if the VDOE will be pressured to change its curriculum and advocate an alternate system like Roman Numerals. Analysts suspect that a switch to Chinese rod numerals would prompt its own backlash.
At press time, Virginia students were enjoying sleeping in on an early first day of their winter break. Meanwhile, the dawning realization that Virginia’s entire economy is based on Arabic numerals had resulted in a considerable spike in statewide gun sales.