Think like a Muslim[, Urges "Across the Centuries"]
by Daniel Pipes
Translations of this item:
Could it be that an important textbook is proselytizing American 12-year-olds to convert to Islam?
Across the Centuries is a handsome artifact, well written, packed with original graphics, and generally achieving the publisher's goal that "students learn best when they are fascinated by what they are learning."
At the same time, there is much in it one can argue with, such as its idiosyncratic coverage of subjects (sub-Saharan Africa gets four times more space than India?). But the really serious problem concerns the covert propagation of Islam, which takes four forms:
Learning about Islam is a wonderful thing; I personally have spent more than thirty years studying this rich subject. But students, especially in public schools, should approach Islam in a critical fashion - learning the bad as well as the good, the archaic as well as the modern. They should approach it from the outside, not as believers, precisely as they do with every other religion.
Some parents have woken up to the textbook's problems. Jennifer Schroeder of San Luis Obispo, Calif., publicly protested its "distinct bias toward Islam." But when she tried to remove her son Eric from the classroom using this book, the school refused her permission and she filed suit in protest a few weeks ago (with help from the Pacific Justice Institute).
Across the Centuries involves a larger issue as well - the privileging of Islam in the United States. Is Islam to be treated like every other religion or does it enjoy a special status? The stakes go well beyond 7th-grade textbooks.
The next edition of Across the Centuries should give a hint of what's in store. Readers may wish to send their opinions to Houghton Mifflin's editorial director for school social studies, Abigail Jungreis (Abigail_Jungreis@hmco.com).
Feb. 12, 2002 update: A day after the publication of the above article, Houghton Mifflin distributed a press release on its website that responded to me by name.
July 3, 2002 update: For another problem with a public-school textbook, this one Islam: A Simulation of Islamic History and Culture, 610-1100 (Interaction Publishers, Inc.), see my article today, "'Become a Muslim warrior'."
July 16, 2002 update: At some point in recent months, Houghton Mifflin withdrew the first press release in favor of a second one that does not mention me by name, only the New York Post. It also makes many other changes, generally softening the company's counterattack on me.
Nov. 24, 2004 update: I look at the Islamist drive to proselytize in "Spreading Islam in American Public Schools." In particular, I look at one article, "Dawa in public schools," that sees those schools as "fertile grounds where the seeds of Islam can be sowed inside the hearts of non-Muslim students. Muslim students should take ample advantage of this opportunity and present to their schoolmates the beautiful beliefs of Islam."
Apr. 6, 2005 update: I recount the fate of another textbook, History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond (Teacher's Curriculum Institute), at "'History Alive!,' Scottsdale Schools, and a Reader's Comment."
Nov. 18, 2005 update: For the decision of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.that classroom instruction of Across the Centuries at the Excelsior School in Byron, California, does not constitute religious indoctrination, see "Courts: Okay to Proselytize for Islam in California Schools."
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