Islamophobic groups, motivated by a hatred for Islam and a sort of twisted “Judeo-Christian” supremacist belief are targeting social studies programs and the historical approach to studying Islam as a world religion in public schools. Several counties in Florida have been targeted and ACT! For America is also pushing the anti-education crusade in Alabama.
It will not be surprising to see this campaign take on the momentum of the “anti-Sharia” campaigns if something is not done to expose these groups. In Florida, the campaign is led by a group called Citizens For National Security which has on its advisory board Islamophobes such as Walid Phares, Daniel Pipes and the Islamophobia-enabler Zuhdi Jasser.
In many ways the crusade that these Islamophobic groups are engaged in against historical education mirrors the drive to instill Creationism into science classes, it is another way in which Conservative groups are propagating ignorance and once again the Republican party is all too willing to comply.
By Bill Thompson (Ocala Star Banner)
A controversy brewing in other parts of Florida over a history textbook that critics maintain is too pro-Muslim has reached a boil in Marion County.
The School Board recently heard complaints from conservative activists, including the head of the Marion County Republican Party, that a state-approved textbook slights Christianity and Judaism while being favorably biased toward Islam.
A spokeswoman for the publisher counters that the book meets state standards in accordance with Florida’s adopted history curriculum, which directs that Christianity and Judaism be explored more fully in earlier grades.
The critics of “World History,” published by Pearson Prentice Hall, one of the biggest publishing houses in the world, demanded at the School Board’s meeting in late November that the book be pulled from area schools.
Or, in lieu of that, the board must somehow provide equal space to chronicling Christianity and Judaism, they argued.
Randy Osborne, chairman of the local Republican Party, told the board that the book’s 36 pages about Islam were actually a “propagation” of the world’s second biggest religious faith.
“It’s something we will not tolerate in Marion County,” Osborne said.
“We came from a Judeo-Christian country. This is the country that we live in, and for a textbook to be propagating an Islamic religion is not acceptable.”
The school district purchased “World History” in July 2012 for use in 10th-grade history classes.
Osborne said he came forward because School Board member Nancy Stacy had publicly taken exception to the use of the book back in the spring, and that her concerns had been ignored by the rest of the panel.
“The board has had ample time to do something with this textbook … and not one thing has been done with it,” Osborne said.
“We are going beyond asking,” he added in saying the School Board should yank the textbook from classrooms, or add a supplement to it.
Osborne urged the board to hold a workshop on “World History” within 30 days, meaning before Christmas.
Others at the meeting echoed Osborne’s comments, sometimes as part of a wider broadside against the Common Core education standards.
Randy Fritz, a former civil rights investigator with the state of New Hampshire, told the School Board that Islam was not just a religion but also a political philosophy.
He described Islam’s tenets as anti-homosexual, “anti-woman” and anti-Semitic, and denounced the faith as “the most bigoted religion on this planet.”
“Why don’t we get some equal treatment” for Christianity? he asked.
Another speaker, Robert Dreyfus, listed “promoting Islam” among a number of social ills he associated with public education, including weeding out the religious beliefs of “95 percent” of schoolchildren by the time they graduate.
“I know what you’d call that system, but I’d call it evil,” Dreyfus said.
“We can fight this nonsense,” added a third voice, Linda Miller, “because these people don’t care about our children, just the almighty dollar.”
In her comments, Stacy said the issue was not just that “World History” appeared to be one-sided for Islam but that its information was incorrect.
She did not specify which parts were wrong. She only noted that the publisher agreed to make changes to the text after Jewish leaders in Palm Beach County complained.
Stacy also pointed out that family members of the late Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi owned shares in Pearson.
Pearson is headquartered in Britain, and the Libyan Investment Authority reportedly owns 3 percent of the company’s stock, news reports say.
Keeping with the theme, Stacy said her investigation also led her to question other social studies and reading texts used by the school district.
For example, a sixth-grade textbook referenced another book for suggested extracurricular reading that lumped stories from the Bible, such as the account in Genesis about the creation of man, in with mythical and folk tales.
“I really don’t think my religion is a myth,” Stacy said. “This myth thing and religion is very, very concerning to me.”
The School Board, at the urging of Chairman Bobby James, who pointed out the district has a process for buying its books, agreed to host a workshop so its textbook-selection committee could explain its work.
That has been scheduled for Jan. 30.
Susan Aspey, Pearson’s vice president for public affairs, said in an email that in Florida, as in other states, Pearson customizes its course materials to align with the state’s individual curriculum standards.
Florida splits its world history curriculum over two years, in grades 6 and 10.
Middle schoolers learn about early civilizations up through the fall of Rome near 500 A.D., while the 10th-graders start with the rise of the Byzantines, around 330 A.D. and proceed to the present day.
Florida’s edition of “World History” aligns to the state’s standards, which requires high schoolers to study the origins of Islam, while the middle school text details the origins of Judaism and Christianity, Aspey said in the statement.