The principal of Concord Carlisle High School is apologizing to parents about the school’s opening ceremony on Wednesday – the 12th anniversary of 9/11 – in which a Muslim poem was recited over the intercom but the Pledge of Allegiance was not.
Boston.com Principal Peter Badalament said in a statement to parents that the poem was meant to promote “cross-cultural understanding,” and that the Pledge of Allegiance was not read because of a mixup with the student reader.
The combination of the two has “outraged a small number of members of our community,” Badalament said in an email to the Globe, noting that the school has received a handful of calls and about 10 emails from unhappy parents.
“Yesterday was the first Wednesday of the school year; we were unaware that our student Pledge reader had an internship commitment on this day,” Badalament said in the statement.. “This was our responsibility to know. We humbly apologize that this oversight and communication gap occurred.”
Boston Herald “I’m disappointed at the reaction that some of my community,” said School Committee member Philip Benincasa. “I think what the principal was doing was an attempt to offer young people a glimpse of what binds us together as people. This was an attack carried out by extremists, not by a religious group that is as peace loving and valued member of our community, our culture, and our world as any other.”
In response to complaints, Concord-Carlisle High School principal Peter Badalament apologized for not having a student available to read the pledge on the morning of 9/11, according to school spokesman Tom Lucey. A student who was supposed to read the pledge was at a scheduled internship and Badalament had failed to find a replacement. The poem was read later in the day, not in lieu of the pledge, Lucey said.
“We had the well-being of students at the forefront of our thinking when we chose to acknowledge 9/11 by reading a poem that focused on cross-cultural understanding rather than unsettling words and images associated with the event,” the principal’s statement read. “We greatly respect all those who died and suffered loss on 9/11, the responders who gave their lives, as well as those who have served and continue to serve our country. We remain grateful for these heroic citizens.”
Badalament said officials were only thinking of the well-being of their students when they chose to read the poem, Mohja Kahf’s “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears.” The poem recounts a granddaughter’s account of watching her grandmother adhere to the religious Muslim custom of washing her feet five times a day, though it puts the pair in an awkward situation at an American department store. (Of course, they never really wash the feet because they don’t use soap, ONLY water)
My grandmother puts her feet in the sink
of the bathroom at Sears
to wash them in the ritual washing for prayer,
because she has to pray in the store or miss
the mandatory prayer time for Muslims
She does it with great poise, balancing
herself with one plump matronly arm
against the automated hot-air hand dryer,
after having removed her support knee-highs
and laid them aside, folded in thirds,
and given me her purse and her packages to hold
so she can accomplish this august ritual
and get back to the ritual of shopping for housewares
Respectable Sears matrons shake their heads and frown
as they notice what my grandmother is doing,
an affront to American porcelain,
a contamination of American Standards
by something foreign and unhygienic
requiring civic action and possible use of disinfectant spray
They fluster about and flutter their hands and I can see
a clash of civilizations brewing in the Sears bathroom
My grandmother, though she speaks no English,
catches their meaning and her look in the mirror says,
I have washed my feet over Iznik tile in Istanbul
with water from the world’s ancient irrigation systems
I have washed my feet in the bathhouses of Damascus
over painted bowls imported from China
among the best families of Aleppo
And if you Americans knew anything
about civilization and cleanliness,
you’d make wider washbins, anyway
My grandmother knows one culture—the right one,
as do these matrons of the Middle West. For them,
my grandmother might as well have been squatting
in the mud over a rusty tin in vaguely tropical squalor,
Mexican or Middle Eastern, it doesn’t matter which,
when she lifts her well-groomed foot and puts it over the edge.
“You can’t do that,” one of the women protests,
turning to me, “Tell her she can’t do that.”
“We wash our feet five times a day,”
my grandmother declares hotly in Arabic.
“My feet are cleaner than their sink.
Worried about their sink, are they? I
should worry about my feet!”
My grandmother nudges me, “Go on, tell them.”