White Hall High School principal Mark Jelks allegedly shared an anti-Islamic post on Facebook at 9:22 p.m. on March 24, causing backlash among the local Muslim community.
The post, which shows an internet meme stating “Kick Islam out of America – You can’t walk with God holding hands with the Devil” has since been removed, but screenshots of the post have been shared by numerous people on social media.
They show the post as being shared by Jelks on his personal Facebook account.
Former President of Executive Committee of the Islamic Center of Pine Bluff Miloud Bahadi told The Pine Bluff Commercial that three Muslim families contacted him about the post. Bahadi said he promised the families that something like this would never happen again.
“Wednesday, I got a call from three Muslim families complaining about an Islamophobic post that says ‘Kick All The Muslims Out Of America’ that was shared by Mr. Jelks on his private Facebook page,” Bahadi said.
“I promised the families that I will do what it takes to make sure that doesn’t happen again. I called the executive director of CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations in) Oklahoma, who assigned their civil rights director ... to advise me on how to take on this issue. Mr. Jelks has boiled the community who are both Muslims and non-Muslims.
“One of Muslim who graduated from the White Hall School District showed his disappointment on his Facebook page and his followers were outraged and condemned the attitude of the principal.”
Bahadi said that it is his wish to see the White Hall School District condemn the post made by Jelks.
“We are asking the school board to publicly condemn Islamophobia and Mr. Jelks to acknowledge that he was wrong and meet with the local Muslim community to learn about the values of religious tolerance,” Bahadi said. “We would like to see sensitivity training for White Hall School District teachers, to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and implement the culture of tolerance and acceptance.”
The White Hall School District has released a statement on the matter but fell short of directly naming Jelks.
“The district is absolutely committed to being an inclusive, respectful, non-discriminatory environment that places the student first,” the statement said. “We do not support or endorse statements to the contrary. We respect the religious backgrounds of all of our students and families, including those who choose not to believe. We will continue to ensure our staff receives high-quality professional development.”
Hesom Shirazi Garner, a former student of the White Hall School District, condemned the post as well. Garner noted that he has a lot of respect for Jelks, but the post shouldn’t have been made.
“I graduated White Hall High School in 2018, and I have known Mr. Jelks since I was in middle school. He was someone I looked up to as well many students, teachers, and even parents,” Garner said. “I think it is a shame that someone such as Mr. Jelks, who I thought of as warm and welcoming, turned out to be prejudiced and Islamophobic. It is particularly shocking and disgraceful because as a school official he is supposed to set an example to those who look up to him. Islamic students have a very difficult time with discrimination anyway so it’s just ignorant that he would do such a thing.”