NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles! Last week, I stood among hundreds of parents diverse in our backgrounds but united in our shared concern to protect our children, affirm our constitutional rights to religious liberty, and the fundamental right of parents to raise their children according to our deeply held moral values rather than whatever trend the government finds popular in the current moment.

As a parent, imam, and proud American, I was shocked that Montgomery County Public Schools were removing the opt-out option for sexual orientation and gender identity material, conflicting with religious beliefs. Our simple request to restore the most basic of our rights — the right to opt out — received a surprising backlash. The opposing side lacks an argument as to why they should deny us our basic freedoms and parental rights, and so they have smeared us as bigots. THE LARGEST TEACHERS UNION IN AMERICA RECOMMENDED EDUCATORS INCLUDE ‘GENDER QUEER’ IN THEIR SUMMER READING

One Montgomery County Council member even said Muslims were on the same side as White supremacists, a deeply hurtful and absurd assertion. As an immigrant from Africa, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would ever be called a White supremacist. Others criticized Muslims for partnering with evangelicals or conservatives. Ismail Royer and Shaykh El Hadji Sall join ‘The Ingraham Angle’ to discuss the discriminatory gender policies in Montgomery County public schools. Yet none of these smears are going to silence me or other parents in Montgomery County from the Muslim and other faith communities. The stakes are too high, and our children are paramount.

Schools should focus on academics, not indoctrination. The latest data from the Maryland Department of Education has found that 80% of Maryland students have fallen short on state proficiency tests in math and English language arts. Math scores have declined in Montgomery County, especially for African-American and Latino students. Rather than focusing on developing reading, writing and arithmetic, MCPS seems intent on introducing topics like gender identity to young children, which may cause confusion and harm. MCPS educational materials teach that certain sexual behaviors or gender lifestyles are morally acceptable and must be celebrated and praised. Among the ideas being promoted to young children by the new MCPS curriculum is that it is completely acceptable for a boy to become a girl. Most Americans would agree that such instructional materials confuse young children and negatively affect their emotional and psychological well-being. They endorse behaviors that Muslims and other Americans with traditional values consider morally objectionable. These materials reflect the values of an elite, small group of school administrators seeking to promote fringe left-wing values against the wishes of parents. This is not about education; it’s about indoctrination.

As parents, we have a duty to instill values in our children and guide their understanding of the world in a manner that aligns with our deeply held beliefs. Our fundamental right as parents to raise our children and impart moral values is under threat. Maintaining parental authority is key to protecting our rights and preserving the family. Compelling children to be taught a curriculum that opposes our religious values by promoting behaviors we deem sinful violates religious freedom.

It is essential to address the misconception that advocating for an opt-out option arises from or promotes hatred toward any group. We are painted as hateful for not celebrating modern ideas regarding gender identity and sexuality, ideas which directly contradict with our theological principle. Our simple request to restore the most basic of our rights — the right to opt out — received a surprising backlash. The opposing side lacks an argument as to why they should deny us our basic freedoms and parental rights, and so they have smeared us as bigots. This is a falsehood. Muslim parents teach children to respect all individuals. I teach my children to honor and love all human beings, as the Holy Quran states that God has honored the children of Adam, and our Prophet Muhammad commanded us to love for our fellow humans what we love for ourselves.

Accusing us of hate is a tactic aimed at shutting down debate and distorting our intentions. It seeks to steer the discussion away from protecting our children, supporting parental rights and upholding religious freedom. Allowing children to opt-out is not an act of hate, and forcing Muslim children to accept behaviors regarding gender identity that we believe are sinful is not inclusion. If inclusion means that the state or our schools favor the values of one group over another, it will only breed increased tensions and chaos. Moreover, it is un-American. Just imagine the mainstream media’s reaction if Muslims asked schools to actively promote Muslim values.

We are not seeking special privileges to have our values imposed and taught in schools. We are not requesting books that promote traditional Muslim ideals of sexuality. We simply ask for the right to opt out. Montgomery County Council member Kristin Mink later apologized for saying gender studies put “some Muslim families on the same side of an issue as White supremacists and outright bigots.” (Montgomery County Council)

There is a vast difference between promoting respect and nondiscrimination for all Americans and imposing a single set of values on everyone. Unfortunately MCPS are the ones acting as intolerant totalitarians by imposing one set of moral values on everyone.

As we just celebrated the Fourth of July, I reflect on the fact that as a Muslim, I am taught to be a good citizen and a good American. I am so grateful to be an American and live in a constitutional republic based on self-government and our God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These are values that my daughter fights for every day as a proud Marine. I am confident that Muslims will continue to take a leading role in this fight for the soul of our country. If our children are not worth fighting for, then what is?

This issue is bigger than Montgomery County, and if we don’t stop it here, it will only get worse. To parents around the country who don’t accept this nonsense — you are not alone! Shaykh El Hadji Sall is a Muslim imam and parent of three children attending Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. He has testified for the opt-out policy in front of the Montgomery County Board Of Education.

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