Some conservative members of the Texas Board of Education assert that the history books used in this state have a pro-Islamic bias, and they are upset about it.
Never shy about wading into the culture wars, they are planning to vote Friday for a resolution that would send a blunt message totextbook publishers: Do not present a pro-Islamic, anti-Christian version of history if you want to sell books in one of the nation's largest markets.
"The purpose of this resolution is to ensure there is balanced treatment of divergent groups," Gail Lowe, the chairwoman of the board, said. "In the past, the textbooks have had some bias against Christianity."
The resolution was written and submitted to the board this summer by, Randy Rives, who as a member of the school board in Odessa, Tex., pushed through a Bible study curriculum.
Last spring, Mr. Rives ran for the state board but failed to defeat the incumbent, Bob Craig, a moderate Republican.
Defeat at the polls did not dampen Mr. Rives's enthusiasm for protecting Texas students from what he sees as a conspiracy to sugarcoat the history of Islam in textbooks. In interviews, Mr. Rives has likened his concerns about Islam to those he and other Americans once had about communists infiltrating American society.
Speaking to the state board last summer, he said that Middle Eastern companies were investing in American publishing houses, or the "textbook oligopoly," as he called it.
"If you can control or influence our education system, you can start taking over the minds of the young people," Mr. Rives said. "And so I think we are real passionate that you need to make a bold statement to the publishers that pushing this agenda will not be tolerated in Texas."
As evidence of Islamic influence in textbook publishing, Mr. Rives cited a 2008 decision by the Dubai royal family to invest heavily in a company that owns the publishing house Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Boston.
Earlier this year, the family's investment arm, Istithmar World Capital, lost its stake in the publishing house after the publishing company restructured its debt, said Josef Blumenfeld, a spokesman for the publisher.
The portrayal of Islam has become an emotional political issue across the country of late, with some Christian conservatives contending that too little attention is paid to the militant aspects of the religion used by terrorist groups to justify their actions.
The latest controversy erupted over a plan by a Baptist preacher in Florida to burn Korans on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. A debate continues to rage, meanwhile, about whether a mosque and community center should be built two blocks from where the World Trade Center stood.
Mr. Rives has found several sympathizers among the board's seven-member conservative bloc, who have introduced his resolution verbatim. The measure says past textbooks devoted more lines to Islamic beliefs and practices than to Christianity and spelled out atrocities committed by Christian crusaders while ignoring similar atrocities by Muslim fighters.
The resolution asserts that textbook writers habitually call Christians "violent attackers" or "invaders" while playing down Muslim conquests in Europe as "migrations."
Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network, which advocates religious freedom in the classroom, said the resolution amounted to political grandstanding.
"What it comes down to is pushing a misleading and inflammatory resolution to score political points," he said. "It's as if the board cannot go one meeting without dragging classrooms down into the culture wars."
It is unclear whether the measure would have any practical effect, since the board has already adopted its standards for world history texts and is not expected to revisit the issue for several years. The bloc of Christian conservatives on the board lost two seats in last March's Republican primary and may have less sway next year.
Still, some members say the board has the authority to reject new textbooks to be published next year that did not meet the standard; the resolution says the board would "look to reject future prejudicial social studies submissions that continue to offend Texas law with respect to treatment of the world's major religious groups."
But other board members say the resolution is distracting them from more pressing matters, like finding financing for new textbooks in the face of budget cuts.
Patricia Hardy, a former history teacher who is a Republican member, said the whole question of bias in the textbooks needed further study.
"To base the resolution on the research of a few people is kind of risky, if you ask me," she said. "It's kind of crazy to stop what we are doing right now and take our eye off the prize."