Interviews with Daniel Pipes
Islam in American Textbooks
Translations of this item:
Note from Daniel Pipes:
I prepared for this interview on the Fox New Channel armed with quotes expecting to discuss specifics of the coverage of Islam in select U.S. textbook. Only when the program was already underway did I learn that there would be another interviewee with me and that it would be Hussein Ibish.
Ibish twice dismissed the Muslims who support terrorism as a "tiny speck." I disputed that on air but, having prepped to discuss textbooks, was not equipped with specific figures and citations.
Here, afterwards, are a couple of statistics to bear out my on-air statements about percentages:
For a general discussion of this topic, see Michael Freund, "The straightforward arithmetic of jihad," The Jerusalem Post, January 30, 2007. As he puts it, "Now, one in four justifying terror may not be a majority, but it certainly isn't a 'small fringe' either."
Eric Shawn: Are our children being taught a politically correct version of Islam? Well, this study from the American Textbook Council says some school textbooks portray Islam in the most favorable light, while downplaying Islamic extremism. One junior high school book described jihad this way: "jihad is defined as a struggle within each individual to overcome difficulties and strive to please God. Sometimes it may be a physical struggle for protection against enemies." Muslim activists say the attention should not be on terrorism or extremists, but others say youngsters are not getting the full story.
Joining us now is Daniel Pipes of danielpipes.org, who for years has studied Islamic extremism, and on the telephone we have Hussein Ibish, who is the executive director of the Foundation for Arab-American Leadership. Daniel, let me start with you, when you see jihad described that way as a "physical struggle for protection" – what is your reaction?
Daniel Pipes: Well Eric I'm astonished. There is a history of nearly 1400 years of violent jihad that led to warfare, destruction, enslavement, devastation. It is a fact, it is a reality, and for history books in the United States and in public schools to ignore this is to ignore not just historical fact but the main security problem of the United States today.
Eric Shawn: When you talk about security. Let me give you an example of another book, another book talking about the 9/11 hijackers under a chapter about Islamic fundamentalism, It said they were a "team of terrorists." Didn't mention their religion—it did say they were from Al-Qaeda but showed no pictures of the burning towers at all and no pictures of the people fleeing, I mean the critics say that shows that the truth is being sanitized for our children.
Daniel Pipes: I think there are two reasons for this, Eric. One has to do with the activism of Islamist groups that are urging to have these unpleasant topics not discussed and secondly there is a receptivity to that activism on the part of the educational establishment which tends to see Muslims not in any kind of threatening posture but as victims, as people who are subject to discrimination and other forms of bias and therefore who need to be reached out to, need to have the way made simple and clear for them so anything that is unpleasant should be swept under the rug.
So, between this yin and yang, between the Islamists who are pushing and an educational establishment that is receptive you have an extraordinary vision of Islam not just in the couple of books you mention but across the board, every single book one looks at one finds the same distortion of the record.
Eric Shawn: Hussein Ibish is on the telephone, Mr. Ibish what's your view? Do you believe our children are getting an inaccurate view of Islam?
Hussein Ibish: Well, I think it—across the board, probably not from school textbooks as far as I know. It is—the two examples you cited, the first case I think is a perfect—a well established, very well accepted mainstream definition of jihad that is, you know, ought to be embrace and promoted, unless you want to go ahead and say, oh Bin laden is right and he is the definitor of Islam and the extremists are—they have the interpretation exactly correct where you've got the mainstream community and mainstream scholars, saying no that is not what the religious concept means.
Eric Shawn: I know but what about homicide bombings and suicide bombings and holy war and Islamic jihad?
Hussein Ibish: Right, that absolutely, that exists as a political phenomenon and I think it is very appropriate to study that in history and in political science classes but not in a class about religion, because ultimately that doesn't define the religious traditions of anything but a tiny speck of the Muslim community of the entire world and certainly doesn't reflect the attitudes of the Muslims in the United States. And if you teach that in history and you should teach it in history and political science classes but not in a class about religious beliefs because it doesn't define the religious beliefs of any except a small fringe. It would be like taking the KKK and saying this is what Christians think or something it doesn't reflect mainstream Christianity and that doesn't reflect mainstream Islam.
Eric Shawn: What would you like to see the texts—go ahead Daniel, you can respond.
Daniel Pipes: That small tiny fringe is actually poll after poll, suggests, between 20, 30, 40 and even 50%,. This is not some tiny fringe. This is a very substantial part of the Muslim population both in the United States and worldwide.
Hussein Ibish: That is not true at all. The poll in the United States show that almost no American Muslims supported suicide bombings . I mean, it was a—a tiny speck and they had—had to break it down into very small sort of youthful demographic, to even extract something that was statistically measurable vis-a-vis people who are sympathetic to suicide bombing and is not true.
Daniel Pipes: This is the standard apologetic that it doesn't exist
Hussein Ibish: That's just not true. I didn't say it doesn't exist.
Daniel Pipes: But I can cite you Pew polls. I can cite you Gallup polls I can site you poll after poll after poll that shows 20, 25%, and in some cases much more—so it's a very powerful demographic and it needs to be discussed. It's part of the religion.
Hussein Ibish: Yes, they prove what I said. Definitely not in the United States. You can find—of course, well that is fine, you could say, well, in the—let's focus then in—if we're teaching about the history of what Christians believe let's focus on the Holocaust let's focus on the Spanish Inquisition—lets focus on the conquest of the Americas, and all of this it is history.
Daniel Pipes: Indeed let's do, let's do, let's do. That's history.
Eric Shawn: We're out of time.
Hussein Ibish: It's history but it's not religious belief that's different.
Daniel Pipes: Unfortunately jihad is not just history. It is something that we are dealing with at this very moment. It is the greatest national security threat to the United States. So by all means study the Inquisition. By all means study the Holocaust. That's not today's problem.
Hussein Ibish: It's fine to study these things as history. These things are history not religious belief.
Eric Shawn: Gentleman we're up against the clock. You get a sense of the passions and deep interest in this issue on what's in our children's textbooks. Well Daniel Pipes and Hussein Ibish, I thank you both for joining us to talk about what's in our children's textbooks this morning here on the Fox News channel.
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