- Associated Press - Sunday, March 6, 2016

DARBY, Mont. (AP) - The Darby School Board is holding a special board meeting to discuss a planned school presentation on Islam by a University of Montana professor following complaints and calls in opposition to his presentation.

Professor Samir Bitar says people need to be informed about current issues, including the discussion about Islam and its role in American culture.

Bitar uses literature, film and other resources to inform audiences about the heritage of Islamic civilizations and the religion of Islam.

The school district plans to have Bitar speak to high school social studies classes and he is the featured Humanities Montana speaker at the Darby Community Library’s Life-Long Learning Series on the same night.

Last week, the library board held a special meeting about Bitar’s presentation after receiving complaints. After hearing public comment, the library board voted to go ahead with the presentation, the Ravalli Republic reported (https://tinyurl.com/zyvpsu8 ).

Students are required to have a permission slip signed by their parents or guardians to attend the class.

Bitar is a professor of Arabic languages and cultures at the University of Montana. He was born in the Middle East and moved to Montana when he was 16. He has been teaching at UM since 1999, with a master’s degree in linguistics, teaching methods and cultural geography.

Bitar has also trained members of the Montana National Guard in the Arabic language and culture.

Bitar said people should come hear his presentation for information.

“First of all, our current environment in the United States at large is, in an indirect way, asking us Americans to look at this issue to become informed,” Bitar said. “In order for us to be active and participate, because democracy is a process, we have to participate to preserve our way of life. In order for us to be able to do that and contribute, we have to be informed.”

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Information from: Ravalli Republic, https://www.ravallirepublic.com

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