The Texas Board of Education gave final approval to its social studies standards a few weeks ago, seeming to put an end to the huge controversythat erupted when critics accused religious fundamentalists of rewriting American history. Now it is taking up a new issue: How students should learn about Islam.
According to the Dallas Morning News, next week the state board will consider a resolution warning publishers not to push a pro-Islamic, anti-Christian viewpoint in world history textbooks.
That makes sense; textbooks shouldn't advance any particular religious viewpoint. But there's more to it, and one wonders why the board is doing this now after spending more than a year reviewing social studies standards.
It can't, surely, have anything to do with the recent news that has inflamed religious tensions, including the proposed construction of a mosque and Islamic community center near Ground Zero in New York and a Florida pastor who was threatening to burn the Koran.
A preliminary draft of the resolution cites examples in past world history books that aren't used any more in Texas schools that devote more lines of text to Islamic beliefs and practices than to Christian beliefs and practices, the Morning News report.
According to the newspaper: "The resolution states that pro-Islamic, anti-Christian half-truths, selective disinformation and false editorial stereotypes 'still roil' some social studies textbooks nationwide, including 'sanitized' definitions of 'jihad' that exclude religious intolerance or military aggression against non-Muslims ... which undergirds worldwide Muslim terrorism."
"The measure cites some books that dwelled on the Christian Crusaders' massacre of Muslims in Jerusalem in 1099, while censoring Muslim massacres of Christians there in 1244 and at Antioch in 1268 – 'implying that Christian brutality and Muslim loss of life are significant, but Islamic cruelty and Christian deaths are not.'
"The resolution concludes with the warning to publishers that the 'State Board of Education will 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 by significant inequalities of coverage space-wise and by demonizing or lionizing one or more of them over others.'"
Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network, a religious freedom group, said that none of the textbooks cited by sponsors of the resolution are being used in Texas schools and that the claims are superficial and misleading.
"This is another example of board members putting politics ahead of just educating our kids," said Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network. "Once again, without consulting any real experts, the board's politicians are manufacturing a bogus controversy."