Pro-Is­lam In­doc­tri­na­tion in Pub­lic Schools?

The Jewish Voice - - ARTS AND CULTURE - By: Meira Svirsky

Par­ents across the U.S. have ob­jected to a De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram called “Ac­cess Is­lam.” The fed­er­ally-funded pro­gram is di­rected at chil­dren from grades 5-12 and is also fea­tured on var­i­ous web­sites, in­clud­ing PBS Learn­ing Me­dia.

The Smith­so­nian also pro­motes the course as does the In­di­ana De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and the United Na­tions.

Par­ents charge that the course amounts to noth­ing less than pros­e­ly­tiz­ing about Is­lam in pub­lic schools. In ad­di­tion, they note that the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion pro­vides no com­pa­ra­ble study or pro­mo­tion of any other re­li­gion.

A video from the course promi­nently fea­tures a Chris­tian con­vert to Is­lam, who de­clares emo­tion­ally how he has found the true re­li­gion with­out any “in­ter­me­di­aries.”

In ad­di­tion to videos, stu­dents are given work­sheets to learn the Five Pil­lars of Is­lam and how to pray. Chil­dren are also ex­pected to mem­o­rize verses from the Qu­ran and know the mean­ing of those verses.

Mary­land

As part of the school's “World His­tory” cur­ricu­lum, high school stu­dents in Mary­land were taught ex­ten­sively about Is­lam — with­out any con­text of cur­rent events — and re­quired to list the ben­e­fits of the re­li­gion.

In one home­work as­sign­ment ob­tained by a news out­let, the ques­tion was asked: “How did Mus­lim con­querors treat those they con­quered?” The cor­rect an­swer was, “With tol­er­ance, kind­ness and re­spect.”

One par­ent, John Kevin Wood, who ob­jected to the manda­tory class said, “I don't force my re­li­gious views on them, so don't force your re­li­gious views on me.”

His wife, Melissa, noted, “We can­not dis­cuss our Ten Com­mand­ments in school but they can dis­cuss Is­lam's Five Pil­lars?”

The cou­ple asked that their daugh­ter be ex­cused from this part of the cur­ricu­lum and given an al­ter­na­tive as­sign­ment, a re­quest which was re­fused. The fa­ther was told that the as­sign­ment must be done or his daugh­ter would re­ceive a zero. Stu­dents are al­lowed to opt out of other mod­ules in the high school, for ex­am­ple, sex ed­u­ca­tion.

New Jer­sey

Two moth­ers who spoke up about the cour­ses on Is­lam that they charge amounted to in­doc­tri­na­tion about Is­lam were smeared with the la­bel of “Is­lam­o­phobes” af­ter bring­ing up the is­sue at a school board meet­ing.

The moth­ers ob­jected that their chil­dren were re­quired to learn in­tri­ca­cies of Is­lam but no sim­i­lar cour­ses were be­ing taught about Chris­tian­ity or Ju­daism.

One of the mother's also noted that her son her was pre­vi­ously cen­sored for pros­e­ly­tiz­ing when he was in fourth grade for a pre­sen­ta­tion he made about giv­ing to the poor which cited a line from the Bi­ble.

An op-ed writ­ten against them for a lo­cal news­pa­per gen­er­ated a con­sid­er­able amount of hate mail on so­cial me­dia sites and even an­i­mos­ity at the gro­cery store.

The fol­low­ing are two ex­am­ples of the course ma­te­ri­als the moth­ers ob­jected to:

Mas­sachusetts

Charges that teach­ing ma­te­ri­als about the Mid­dle East are bi­ased and funded by Saudi, Pales­tinian, and other Arab states were levied against New­ton high schools.

One of the books the schools rec­om­mend as read­ing ma­te­rial in­cluded ex­trem­ist writ­ings by Mus­lim Brother­hood lead­ers Sayyid Qutb and Yusuf Qaradawi, who is known for his ser­mons call­ing for the mur­der of Jews and ho­mo­sex­u­als.

New­ton schools of­fi­cials have con­tin­u­ously re­fused to make school cur­ric­ula and teach­ing ma­te­ri­als avail­able to res­i­dents.

Pub­lic pres­sure pre­vi­ously forced the high schools to dis­con­tinue us­ing the Saudi-funded Arab World Stud­ies Note­book, which makes spu­ri­ous charges against Is­rael. The book has been re­jected by a num­ber of other school dis­tricts as well.

School of­fi­cials claimed the book helped to de­velop the stu­dents' “crit­i­cal think­ing skills.”

A num­ber of anti-Semitic in­ci­dents were re­ported in New­ton high schools dur­ing use of the book. School of­fi­cials, in vi­o­la­tion of manda­tory re­port­ing pro­ce­dures, failed to in­form par­ents and po­lice of the es­ca­lat­ing in­ci­dents.

Ten­nessee

Con­cern about a course in Is­lam, which par­ents charged amounted to re­li­gious in­doc­tri­na­tion, reached all the way to the Ten­nessee state leg­is­la­ture where a bill was passed al­low­ing lo­cal school boards to de­cide how they want to teach about re­li­gion.

Par­ents were con­cerned about a course teach­ing about the Five Pil­lars of Is­lam that they charge was giv­ing false in­for­ma­tion to chil­dren. As a re­sult, in many lo­ca­tions in Ten­nessee, the cur­ricu­lum was stream­lined and in some cases, the course was been cut out en­tirely.

Vir­ginia

In 2015, par­ents and stu­dents protested af­ter a teacher asked stu­dents to copy the sha­hada, the Is­lamic dec­la­ra­tion of faith, as an ex­am­ple of Ara­bic cal­lig­ra­phy.

The sha­hada states: “There is no God but Al­lah, and Mo­ham-

med is his mes­sen­ger.”

Some stu­dents re­fused to com­plete the as­sign­ment and a num­ber of par­ents protested to the school, call­ing the as­sign­ment “in­doc­tri­na­tion.”

As a re­sult, the school district an­nounced that “a dif­fer­ent, non-re­li­gious sam­ple of Ara­bic cal­lig­ra­phy will be used in the fu­ture.”

New York

A les­son plan de­vel­oped in New York State and pro­moted by the New York State Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment called “Dy­ing to be a Mar­tyr,” fea­tured video in­ter­views with Is­lamic ter­ror­ists who ex­plain why their at­tacks on Is­raelis were jus­ti­fied. The les­sons plan con­tains no in­struc­tions for teach­ers to de­nounce the views. In ad­di­tion, the plan does not con­tain an Is­raeli re­sponse.

The plan was of­fered to teach­ers for a decade through the tax­payer-funded Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing Ser­vice's “Learn­ingMe­dia” web­site.

Af­ter a re­quest was made for a com­ment by state of­fi­cials, NYSED's web­site was changed and the les­son plan was dropped. How­ever, the plan con­tin­ued to be listed on an­other NYSED web­site as well the pro­mo­tion of a video ti­tled “Story of Is­lam: A His­tory of the World's Most Misun­der­stood Faith.”

From a car­toon de­pict­ing the ‘Five Pil­lars of Is­lam’ (Photo: video screen­shot)

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