Claim: Seventh graders in California are subjected to an intense three-week course in Islam in which they are required to pray to Allah and memorize Koran verses.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2001]
The course mandates that seventh-graders learn the tenets of Islam, study the important figures of the faith, wear a robe, adopt a Muslim name and stage their own jihad. Adding to this apparent hypocrisy, reports ANS, students must memorize many verses in the Koran, are taught to pray "in the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful" and are instructed to chant, "Praise to Allah, Lord of Creation."
"We could never teach Christianity like this," one outraged parent told ANS. Elizabeth Christina Lemings, a teacher in the Byron, Calif., Union School District, was unaware of the course until her seventh-grade son brought home the handouts. Obtained by ANS, the handouts include a history of Islam and the life of Muhammad, its founder. There are
(The rest of the e-mailed article can be found here.)
Origins: Sometimes a clear yes or no answer is impossible to provide, given the quality of the information available and the complexity of the underlying issues. And this is one of those times.
The World Net Daily article quoted above was drawn from information provided by Assist Ministries in its
Even so, there is something to what it said. Granted, that "something" is distorted and overstated, but the core element is present.
As part of their social studies curriculum,
According to California's
(You can view for yourself California's Grade Seven History-Social Science Content Standards.)
Many parents would be up in arms if schoolkids were learning about the life and teachings of Jesus in public school classrooms, even if the information were presented only as background for a unit on the impact of Christianity on world history. That it's a different religion on the hot seat shouldn't matter — it's a "separation of church and state" issue, specifically, that religion must not be taught in schools. Whether the belief system is Islam or Christianity, the core issue doesn't change.
For the most part, the California standards were relatively clear on the intent of the unit (which was to teach about a people central to the course of world history). Ambiguity was certainly present in whether the religion or the people influenced by it would be the subject of all parts of this unit, and it was here that the trip wire was set for unwary educators.
How each school and district chose to meet the California-mandated standards was up to them, leaving the door open to any number of ways of presenting the same material. The Excelsior School in Byron chose a more unusual mode of imparting this knowledge to those schooled there, and its
The Grade 7 textbook central to the controversy, Across the Centuries, is a broad-based social studies textbook which examines the impact of a variety of cultures on events as they unfolded over the course of two thousand years. A look at the list of Houghton-Mifflin's "lessons at a glance" for this work shows that it's anything but a "how to" for the Muslim religion — the book provides information about a number of cultures, including Japanese, Chinese, European, African, South American, and Muslim. More than anything else, it's an overview of world history meant to acquaint
Does it present Muslims in a positive light and Christians in a negative one? Some argue that it does — by happenstance or otherwise, the information about Islam's place in world history is presented within the context of that belief system's glory days of scholarship and expansion of trade, while the information about Christianity generally only appears against a backdrop of Christians harming their neighbors and attempting to quash science.
The ambiguity of the standard as well as the possible cant of the textbook have contributed to the current controversy. Peggy Green, Superintendent of the Byron Union School District, said in a press statement issued on
We think the Byron School District erred badly on the side of liberalism in how it chose to teach this segment and that it displayed an appalling lack of sensitivity to the fears that even more will be drawn to the fundamentalist Islamic faiths that spawned the terrorist attacks on America if Islam is made attractive enough, but that's a judgment call, not a matter of fact. What can be argued is whether the line separating teaching about a religion and teaching the religion itself was blurred by how the district chose to fulfill the Islamic history element of the
Also erring in this drama, however, was Assist Ministries, which used this incident as a platform for publicizing its agenda. World Net Daily left out many of the more extreme statements from the Assist Ministries press release, ones that would have made the intent of the ANS piece clear from the beginning:
Simple. Christians cannot be enslaved. Islam, an oppressive religion of control, cruelty and fear does enslave, which can keep people subdued. This is precisely what the future leaders of the One World Order want to achieve. And the misinformed, make nice, politically correct crowd seem eager to help them accomplish it.
But the greatest driving factor in all of this is money. There are the profiteers and politicians who stand to grow in unspeakable wealth and power by cooperating with the Arabs and finding favor by helping them and their pagan religion take control. They have no compunction in selling us out, and our freedom, to accomplish their goals. These greedy, self-serving investors stand salivating on both sides of the oil pump.
Reporter Nich Schou of the OC Weekly made a telling statement in October 2001: "Since
Is it possible to teach about a people and their place in history without also teaching the belief system that influenced them? We don't know. But we do know every effort has to be made in that direction if the one is to be attempted.
Barbara "the churchmouse that roared" Mikkelson
Last updated: 4 April 2015
Green, Peggy. "Press Release." Byron Union School District. 11 January 2002. Miles, Austin. "Public Schools Embrace Islam." ASSIST News Services. 9 January 2002. Schou, Nick. "Pulling His Cheney." OC Weekly. 26 October 2001 (p. 14). Sorokin, Ellen. "Islam Course at Middle Schools in Cal. Angers Parents." The Washington Times. 16 January 2001 (p. A1).