Family Security Matters
August 19, 2008
Textbook Lies about Islam
Gilbert T. Sewall
Islam is one of the most important issues of our time, but you wouldn't know it from reading a high school textbook. What students learn makes it almost impossible to understand Islam in history or the world today, much less what fuels Islam's challenge to peace and international security.
A review of leading textbooks used in New York City and nationwide reveals they deliberately misrepresent Islamic history, jihad, Islamic law (sharia), global terrorism, and more.
Thinking that jihad is "holy war" is wrong, students are told. Instead textbooks insist it is merely an effort to improve oneself and society.
"Muslims should fulfill jihad with the heart, tongue, and hand. Muslims use the heart in their struggle to resist evil. The tongue may convince others to take up worthy causes, such as funding medical research. Hands may perform good works and correct wrongs," chimes one popular California textbook called "History Alive!"
A widely used Houghton Mifflin textbook titled "Across the Centuries" defines jihad as an "inner struggle" to "do one's best to resist temptation and overcome evil."
In spite of centuries of Islamic conquest and bloodshed, there's never any hint of aggression toward the "infidel." Illiberality and oppression are willfully ignored. "Traditionally, in Islamic countries women are not expected to read or write. Today, Muslim women are pursuing educations and new career opportunities. While Islamists call for a return to tradition, many Muslims embrace a mixture of traditional and modern ways," asserts Prentice Hall's "World History," a high school textbook popular in New York City and suburban schools.
The tinny phrase "career opportunities" aside, the word tradition or a variation of it is used over and over, yet students never get the slightest idea of what these "traditions" are or what "return to tradition" means.
Textbooks sidestep centuries-long Islamic slavery that occurred on a massive scale on different continents. They do not mention the execution of homosexuals in today's Islamic Republic of Iran.
Instead, the textbooks talk about how the Middle Ages constitute a golden age of Islamic tolerance. A seventh-grade Prentice Hall textbook calls medieval Islamic Spain a "multicultural society." Meanwhile, in all the textbooks, the Crusades have been re-written into a story of Christian massacres of Muslims and Jews.
On subjects from 9/11 to Israel, textbooks step around Islam's role. The little that's said is hard to understand. The Prentice Hall "World History" describes the Wahhabi sect in one word, "strict." McGraw-Hill/Glencoe's "World History" says Osama bin Laden believes that "Western ideas had contaminated Muslim societies."
Just what ideas are those? What does the word contaminated suggest?
Why all the doctored language and textbook evasions? Because publishers and editors hire Islamic propagandists as "academic consultants" and allow them to screen lessons.
Islamists and multiculturalists on and off campus are eager to restrict what is said about Islam in public schools. Middle East centers and associations can be ideological machines, promoting Islam with a caustic anti-Western spin. Left-wing historians are prominent in textbook authorship.
True, all religious groups try to use textbook politics and policies to their advantage. Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin - the three main educational publishers - are in the business of quieting the unquiet. But in the process, for fear of giving offense to professional injustice collectors and propagandists, history textbooks give a false picture - or no picture at all - of grave threats to the US and world.
This picture of Islam is accompanied by lost reverence for - or even interest in - Western achievement and power.
Textbooks repeatedly blame Middle East terrorism on "colonial domination." They refuse to connect it to Islamic fundamentalism and avoid the label "Islamic terrorism," even regarding September 11. They steer clear of jihad's global scope and the life-and-death threat of nuclear terror. Radicals merely have a "vision of what a pure Islamic society should be."
Historian Bernard Lewis noted in March 2007 at the American Enterprise Institute that Europeans and Americans respond to religion-based cultural differences in the world with "what is variously known as multiculturalism and political correctness."
"In the Muslim world there are no such inhibitions," Lewis warned. "They are very conscious of their identity. They know who they are and what they are and what they want, a quality which we seem to have lost to a very large extent. This is a source of strength in the one, of weakness in the other."
After 9/11 Americans should rightly expect tax-funded textbooks to rethink the whole subject of Islam top to bottom, questioning the motives of activists in state capitals and Washington. The 2008 presidential election will be a referendum on the "war on terrorism" and the Islamic resurgence worldwide will occupy the thoughts of the West thereafter.
Meanwhile, history and current events are being altered to cover up inconvenient truths.
Islamic pressure on publishers to cleanse, misrepresent and bypass Islam's past and present is working. For young Americans, the loss is clear sight of geopolitics and the ability to see world challenges for what they are.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributor Gilbert T. Sewall is Director of the American Textbook Council, a former history instructor at Phillips Academy and an education editor at Newsweek. His articles have also appeared in the New York Post.
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