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April 3, 2012 Print
ACT! For America Education

Researchers Examine Textbook Treatment of Islam

by Karla Dial

A recently released analysis of history textbooks used in school districts nationwide reveals a strong pro-Islam bias that researchers say will profoundly affect the way future generations approach foreign policy, if left uncorrected.

“Education or Indoctrination? The Treatment of Islam in 6th through 12th Grade American Textbooks,” by the 10-year-old nonprofit organization ACT! For America Education, was sent to 70,000 school board members across the country in late March. The heavily documented, 229-page study, conducted over the course of two years, found the textbooks gloss over some aspects of the Islamic faith while completely rewriting others, said Executive Director Guy Rodgers.

“What we found is a pattern of historical revisionism and bias that clearly creates a narrative for the average middle- or high school student to have a view of the Muslim world that is very rosy,” he said. “The errors are numerous, and the implications are disconcerting. We’re now in the second generation of young people that have been exposed to this rewrite of history, and it will affect how they deal with public policy and threats from the Muslim world.

“That’s a big deal, because those threats are not going to go away — they’re going to increase with time, and there needs to be an accurate understanding of Islam, how it was founded, jihad and what it means for us today.”

Most of the 38 textbooks analyzed were published between 2000 and 2010, but Rodgers said some factual errors were traced as far back as 1990.

For example, though the books accurately describe the rise of European imperialism and its African slave trade, they “are silent” on the fact that the Islamic slave trade in Africa began 800 years before Europe’s. Nor do they discuss the violent invasions and forcible takeovers of other nations which resulted in the 6,000-mile long Islamic Empire as “imperialism.”

“One textbook treats this by saying, verbatim, ‘Islam became popular in India,’ ” Rodgers said. “You ask the Hindus who know their history, and they’ll tell you 80 million Hindus were killed and 2,000 temples were destroyed (by Islamic jihadists). That’s hardly ‘becoming popular.’ ”

According to the study, some of the books also falsely claim that Islam extends equality to Jews and women under Sharia law.

The implications of miseducation are already evident on college campuses, Rodgers said.

“We’re seeing a rise of anti-Semitism, a rise of opposition to Israel and sympathy with the plight of the Palestinians. We’re seeing a rise of militant Muslim groups on campuses,” Rodgers said. “We run into young people who tell us this very thing — that they were taught Christianity and Judaism were bad, the Crusades were terrible, that women are treated equally under Islam.”

Are public school students the only ones affected? Not necessarily, said Rodgers.

“A lot of Christian schools use the same textbooks as public schools,” he explained. “The typical board member, teacher, etc., doesn’t know this stuff any more than the average person does. So hopefully this will wake enough of them up to put pressure on the textbook publishers to make changes.”


Learn more about ACT! For America Education

Read the executive summary of “Education or Indoctrination? The Treatment of Islam in 6th through 12th Grade American Textbooks.”

Read the full report.