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An honest depiction of the world

Reader comment on item: Think like a Muslim[, Urges "Across the Centuries"]

Submitted by Rabya Chaudhry (United States), Apr 23, 2002

In "Think Like a Muslim", New York Post Columnist Daniel Pipes asks, "Could it be that an important textbook is proselytizing American twelve year olds to convert to Islam?" An appropriate response posited by readers could be, "Could Pipes’s attempt to block a critical and ultimately illuminating overview of Islamic history be any more apparent?" In a time when media outlets are going to extraordinary lengths to expose the world to the intricacies of Islam, Pipes is asking for a retreat of sorts in order to ensure that Islam does not receive "special status". Yet social, political and/or historical relevance are a large part of what makes up a teacher’s lesson plan and a school’s curriculum. And it is a major factor in motivating and engaging students in their studies. Is not technology and its affects on culture examined closer today than say 300 years ago because of the technical revolution of the 20th and 21st centuries? Is not the concept of genocide and ethnic cleansing underscored in international politics given the atrocities of WWII and the Balkan Crisis?

Pipes is also concerned that the textbook, Across The Centuries, asks its young readers to engage in exercises to develop further their understanding of the culture, such as pretending to be en route to Mecca for the pilgrimage and chronicling the sites and sounds the traveler may encounter while on the way. Now, besides the fact the textbook contains exercises about many different religious/cultural experiences (as asserted by its publisher, Houghton Mifflin), who can claim that their school career was devoid of dalliance in different religions and cultures? Raise your hand if you have never:

-Constructed and then adorned a Pilgrim’s Hat
-Cooked and then consumed a Potato Latke
-Decorated, hid, and then hunted for an Easter Egg
-Memorized and then belted out the verses to either "Silent Night" or "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel!"

Fifty years ago, the United States was inching towards war with the then U.S.S.R. The Iron Curtain prevented the import or export of information, so the United States was left to its own devices in trying to depict Russia to children. Years passed and walls crumbled, leading to a freer flow of information and enabling American youth to gain a more accurate understanding of the Russian culture. In many ways we are in that same place with the Islamic world. Tragic and irrevocable events have broken down walls and made friends out of foes. It is only natural that now America is able to view a truer picture of the Muslim world, and vice versa. Houghton Mifflin’s Across the Centuries is a step towards promoting an honest depiction of the world. Mr. Pipes would do well to use his craft for a similar noble purpose.
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