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'Kite Runner' too Islamic, school board told

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The ACLU of Arkansas is paying close attention to a move by Jonesboro high school patrons to remove "The Kite Runner" from a senior English class curriculum because of its "presentation of Islam as a viable and genuine religion."

An article in the Jonesboro Sun did not name the two Valley View School District patrons who want the curriculum changed, but one is apparently a substitute teacher who learned of the curriculum while substituting in the class.

"The Kite Runner," by Khaled Hosseini, is a redemption story about a boy who betrays his servant friend, flees Afghanistan as the Soviets rise to power and returns years later as the Taliban take over to make amends to the servant's family. The servant boy is sodomized in one scene, and that and language in the book were also named as objectionable.

As quoted in the Jonesboro Sun, the patrons complained that the book "may cause some students to question the validity of our 'one nation under God' ... Is it permissible to have a book which deals with Islam and a man's journey to receive it as truth when most schools are not allowed to teach the same in relation to the Bible?"

Attempts to reach the school board president, Dr. Brian Gray, were unsuccessful, but according to the Jonesboro Sun, a couple of board members suggested the book be kept in the curriculum but not read aloud in class.

The board will take up the issue again at its Jan. 10 meeting.

Norm Stafford, a former professor of English at Arkansas State University and a member of the ACLU board, said he will join other ACLU representatives at the meeting. He said students were exposed to "far more explicit stuff about the Penn State story," referring to the publication of allegations of abuse by former football coach Jerry Sandusky. He cited the irony that the patrons would try to ban a book whose story line is set against the evils of the rise of the extremist, book-banning Taliban.

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