Editor's Note: This article was last updated at 2:52 p.m.
The Muslim Al Salam Day School off Weidman Road is closed Friday due to a Christian group's promise to tout Christianity at the location, school officials said.
A letter, that reads as follows, was sent home to parents telling them there was no school on Friday.
"Earlier this week we had informed members and parents of the community about a protest that will be taking place outside of the Islamic Foundation Property tomorrow. Due to the overwhelming incoming of increasing safety concerns from parents and teachers, we have decided to cancel school and after school activities for tomorrow, Friday, March 9.
Ghazala Hayat with the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis tells Patch that the group Reclaiming Missouri for Christ contacted St. Louis County Police to inform them the group planned to distribute literature during the Dar-Ul-Salam Mosque's prayer services Friday between noon and 2 p.m. The Islamic Foundation offices, mosque and school are all located on the same property off Weidman Road.
As of 1 p.m. Friday, approximately ten representatives of Reclaiming Missouri for Christ were just off the day school grounds where they were accompanied with just as many members of the St. Louis area media. All parties Patch spoke with Friday said the afternoon was peaceful and without incident.
Officers Kendall and Burgess of the St. Louis County Police Department, who declined to give their first names, said they are on site every Friday to ensure safety and facilitate traffic.
“Everything's normal,” Kendall said. “There's never been chaos.”
Hayat said the Islamic Foundation was informed by police of the group's pending appearance Wednesday, then decided to close the school as a precaution.
"The past two or three times the group came, the literature was so inflammatory against the Muslim religion," Hayat said. "Nothing happened but people were reading it and and getting so upset."
Hayat said she expected the group's appearance to be peaceful. Class was canceled at a safety precaution this time because the group has never contacted police before, she said.
"So we don't know what they are planning," Hayat said. "We have requested people to stay calm and told them they can refuse to take the literature, but you never know because people can get very upset because they are insulting our religion in their literature."
Al-Salam member Faizan Syed, 23, of Kirkwood, said he has seen members of Christian groups issue informational handouts near the Mosque before, although Reclaiming Missouri for Christ representatives said Friday was the first time the group appeared at Al-Salam.
“They're actually really hate materials when you read them,” Syed said.
In addition to a booklet that translates select portions of the Christian Gospel of John, Reclaiming Missouri for Christ representatives handed out a sheet of paper that made several controversial assertions about Muhammad, a sacred figure among Islam considered by Muslims to be a prophet of God who is cited as the religion's founder. Excerpts from the handout included the following statements:
• “Jesus never killed anyone! Muhammad killed many."
• “Jesus never married. Muhammad had many wives and even had sex with a nine year-old."
• “Jesus died and rose from the dead. Muhammad died and stayed dead.”
“It's a lot of lies and distortion about Muslims,” Syed said.
When confronted about the allegations in the handouts, Reclaiming Christ for Missouri Pastor Mark Kiser said the materials only represented what appears in The Bible.
“Well if they're talking about Romans and John, then I guess they're calling it a hateful word. Because Romans and John is straight out of the Bible—the Holy Bible,” Kiser said.
Rick Eckhard, with St. Louis County Police, tells Patch that there are a few officers on stand-by at the mosque Friday afternoon.
"Actually we're sending officers out there because of the media attention. The group contacted us. They said they're going to be handing out literature and we're not going to do anything but be there on stand-by," Eckhard explained.
He said he did not not expect any issues Friday and that it is not uncommon for groups who plan to make a peaceful appearance to notify local police.
"I don't think there is any reason for police involvement. We're obviously there to watch and monitor," Eckhard said.
John Chasnoff, a program director with the American Civil Liberties Union who was on site Friday, said Reclaiming Missouri for Christ seemed to be a peaceful group.
“I can understand that there is a very different perspective that may find this offensive."
Still, Chasnoff said, the group appeared to be obeying the law and within their First Amendment rights guaranteeing free speech.
"So far it's been minimally disruptive to the community," Chasnoff said. "I think the members of this community have handled themselves with good humor and are taking this in stride.”