BALLWIN • An Islamic school has canceled classes for Friday after parents and faculty expressed concern about a Christian group gathering outside the school to distribute religious materials.
“We sent a notice to parents that attendance was optional in case they didn’t feel comfortable,” said Donna Bari, a spokesman for Al-Salam Day School, which serves about 300 students in grades kindergarten through eighth. “Many, many called.”
As a result, Bari said, the principal and the school board agreed to close the school for the day.
“Hopefully, it will be peaceful. Whatever they are protesting,” Bari said.
Mark Kiser, president of Reclaiming Missouri for Christ, the group gathering outside the school, took issue with calling the event a protest.
“This is definitely not a protest of any kind,” said Kiser, of Springfield, Mo. “There will be no signs, no megaphones. No yelling and screaming. Just gentle, loving outreach.”
Kiser said he and other members of the group will pass out packets including DVDs featuring people who have converted to Christianity from Islam. The packets also contain Bible scripture “highlighting Jesus Christ.”
“We know there is a fine line and we might be looked at as hate mongers, but we’re doing this because we truly love them,” Kiser said. “If they take the packets, fine. If not, we’ll say ‘God bless’ and move on.”
The school sits next door to Daar-ul-Islam mosque, also known as the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis. The mosque will host Friday prayers at noon and 1 p.m.
Imam Asif Umar said he does not expect problems. The group has a Constitutional right to assemble and speak their mind, he said.
“In Islam, we are taught to respect all religions and beliefs,” Umar said. “No matter their ideologies.”
Kiser’s organization notified police by letter that members planned to be outside the school and mosque on Friday. Kiser said he did not want it to come as a surprise or be misrepresented why his group was gathering. As Christians, he said, there is a responsibility to share the teachings in the Bible “and talk about eternity.”
His group also has distributed packets outside abortion clinics, at gay pride festivals and in popoular gathering places such as The Loop, he said. Kiser referred to the group’s website, which further explains its goals.
“Reclaiming Missouri for Christ is not an organization. It is a vision. It is a mission,” the website says. “Messages of repentance, personal responsibility, liberty, and holding our public officials responsible before God have been forsaken and replaced with messages of social justice, personal affluence, and political correctness. These messages have nearly destroyed this nation.”