Several local activists say they plan to go to the Fountain Valley school board Thursday to ask for changes in social science textbooks they say have "cleansed" portrayals of Islamic history.
Fountain Valley resident Steven A. Jackson is asking the board to consider the introduction of supplementary material to be used with the district's current seventh-grade social science textbook. He contends that editions of the books adopted for use in California present "a totally positive view of Islam at the expense of accuracy."
"We expect schools to teach the truth," said Jackson, 64, who had five children go through Fountain Valley schools.
Several members of Orange County chapters of ACT! for America, a national group that advocates against the threat of radical Islam, are also expected to attend the meeting.
Fountain Valley School Board Superintendent Marc Ecker said he did not believe any immediate action would be taken on Jackson's proposal. He said the board would most likely decide to put the item on a future agenda for discussion or dismiss it immediately.
"What they're objecting to is material in a state-adopted book," he said. "It's a state-adopted book for a number of reasons… I can't imagine the board spending a great deal of time on (the resolution.)"
He said the textbook was read and reviewed by district parents before its acceptance.
Thursday's meeting – 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 10055 Slater Ave. – will be the latest in a series of run-ins between the Fountain Valley School District and ACT! Since May of last year, ACT! members have voiced their disapproval not only of texts being used by Fountain Valley schools, but also the district's leasing of space to a nonprofit known as the Institute of Religion and Civic Values.
Formerly known as the Council of Islamic Education, the organization works with educators, publishers and policymakers to provide perspective on world religions in educational material. Founded in 1990 by Shabbir Mansuri, the institute has leased space from the district since 1993.
Jackson says the textbook in question, the 2006 edition of Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt's World History: Medieval to Early Modern Times, not only has inaccuracies but will remain in use for years to come because of the district's limited budget for new books. In light of this, he said he is recommending supplementary material to update and correct what he and ACT! members see as inaccuracies in the original text.
The supplementary material, written by Textbook Alert, addresses a 55-page section of the textbook regarding Islamic history. Textbook Alert Director Sandra Alfonsi described the group as "an independent think tank" with experience reviewing textbooks.
Textbook Alert recommended various changes to the textbook addressing what the group believes are inaccuracies ranging from Muslims' views on Christians and Jews to interpretations of jihad, or the Arabic word for "struggle."
"We refer to it as Islamist revisionism," said Alfonsi, a professor of modern languages at East Stroudsburg University in Pittsburgh. "That's exactly what we're trying to show. It's not a little skewed, it's quite skewed."
Islamic activists strongly objected to the supplementary materials. Hussam Ayloush, executive director of theCouncil on American-Islamic Relations, said the material quoted from the Qur'an, but without context.
"It's a very selective use of quotes and misquotes, inaccuracies and half-truths and outright lies," he said. "It's very easy for people who have a hateful agenda to portray a group in a hateful way by cherry-picking from a religious group's history."
Ecker said he does not think the board will make a decision in favor of the resolution in the near future, citing the fact that the supplemental curriculum has not been adopted by California Department of Education
Alfonsi said it was the first time that the group, whose board consists of professors from George Washington University, Boston University and the University of Arkansas, has been approached to write material for this purpose.
"(ACT!) came to us and asked if we were willing to create supplementary material for these textbooks," she said.
Mansuri said he believed the material was a reflection of what he called "polemical views."
"It would be a real tragedy for polemical materials such as those preferred by this group to be considered to be on par with the consensus and high standards of education professionals throughout our nation who are striving to advance a more accurate, balanced and nuanced understanding of our shared world," he said.
Ecker shrugged off allegations of special relationships between the district and Mansuri.
"I think our district is being targeted because we lease space to Shabbir Mansuri, and they want us to kick him out," he said. "Mr. Mansuri is an American citizen. … He has leased space here and he has a binding contract."