According to CCHS Principal Peter Badalament, the poem "My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears" was read in acknowledgement of Sept. 11, 2001, and the Pledge of Allegiance was not recited due to a mix-up.
That confluence of events has touched a nerve with some local parents, who feel the reading of a "Muslim poem" in remembrance of 9/11 was inappropriate. Badalament, however, said the poem was meant to provide cross-cultural understanding, and that the daily Pledge was not said due to a coincidental scheduling oversight.
"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," Badalament said in a statement released earlier today. "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."
The poem, by Mohja Kahf, recalls a scene in which the narrator’s grandmother washes her feet in a bathroom at Sears so as not to miss the mandatory prayer time for Muslims, and draws the ire of the Midwestern shoppers looking on in amazement.
From the poem, which can be read here:
Standing between the door and the mirror, I can see
at multiple angles, my grandmother and the other shoppers,
all of them decent and goodhearted women, diligent
in cleanliness, grooming, and decorum
While the poem was an intentional attempt to promote cross-cultural understanding, the lack of a daily Pledge of Allegiance was an oversight by CCHS administrators and the student who typically leads the pledge.
"We read the Pledge of Allegiance every day at Concord-Carlisle High School," Badalament explained in the statement. "Yesterday was the first Wednesday of the school year; we were unaware that our student Pledge reader had an internship commitment on this day. This was our responsibility to know. We humbly apologize that this oversight and communication gap occurred."