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A Comment for Trygve Inda

Reader comment on item: Spreading Islam in American Public Schools

Submitted by (name withheld) (United Kingdom), Apr 19, 2005 at 11:58

You'll hear no argument from me, Trygve, against a school, or university, textbook telling history in the proper/right/objective context. That's the ideal way of teaching people about other people. I actually skimmed through the "History Alive!" textbook; yet I had a hard time finding any honest analysis in the textbook. It touches on the hard facts--which are what facts are, objective/true--but lacks any honesty. Granted, it may not be suitable to include analyses on civilization histories and bore middle school children with lengthy opinions on the grey areas all civilizations entail. But what about the basic, proper-level, insights into the real facts that took place since the birth of Islam? In the book, there is not even the slightest hint at the Apostasy Wars (c. 632-635 C.E.) which claimed the lives of thousands of infidel Arabs, the arbitrariness of the Hadiths (which is where the information is drawn from), the skepticism of Arab religious scholars of Muhammad's prophethood, etc. I believe with all objectivity comes an equal share of honesty. And by honesty, I mean giving a true weavework of the facts, a type of coherence to history. The two, objectivity and honesty, run side by side.

The book also talks about the great inventions, science, architecture, medicine that was being studied and accomplished in the Islamic empires/sultanates. Of course, it shies away from mentioning that this is just plain obvious. Many of the accomplishments that took place, for example, during the time of the Abbasids, were effected under the precondition that new lands were being conquered. Science among the new Muslims never upsurged until they began expanding into new civilizations. Popular ideas and inventions that started in India, say, were disseminated into the Muslim milieu and claimed by them, such as the concept of "zero", paper, ointments, and so on. The book censors the fact that many scientists never even accepted the absoluteness of the Islamic faith, and in fact, professed deism/reason as against Islam ( e.g., al-Farabi, Avicenna, Omar Khayyam, ibn Haitham, and many others) and went through tribulations by proclaiming their personal beliefs.

Most important of all is, the textbook by its very silence on the issue, sanctifies the Muslims' casus belli at that age: the Qur'an's injunction in chapter 9, verses 28-29 and chapter 4, verses 88-89 (that allows killing dissenters and apostates). The authors of the book scurry away like mice from discussing what made all the above possible.

So, Trygve, you are right to admire a book for its objective history, but I disagree with you if you think the book has any residue of honesty with its regard to Islam. Perhaps being honest about the book lies at breaking point of its publishing company, that it decides to go ahead without it. To me, that's all the more reason for parents and teachers to settle claims against the publishers.

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