Who perpetrated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 – a group of men merely fighting "for a cause," or a band of radical Muslims bent on violent jihad?
According to a new, comprehensive study of 6th-12th grade textbooks used by schools across the country, America's children are being taught a very different answer to that question than many alive to witness 9/11 remember.
The non-profit organization ACT! for America Education studied 38 textbooks from popular publishers like McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin, for example, to determine whether American schoolchildren are being taught the truth about Islam and its role in 9/11.
The report, titled "Education or Indoctrination? The Treatment of Islam in 6th through 12th Grade American Textbooks," compares what it found in the textbooks with 275 historical sources, listing 375 footnoted citations, to conclude that America's textbooks are laced with "historical revisionism."
"This report shines a bright light on a pattern of errors, omissions and bias in the textbooks reviewed," explained ACT! for America Education founder Brigitte Gabriel in an email. "To give you just one example of the errors our research uncovered, in discussing the 9/11 attacks, the textbooks typically fail to mention the perpetrators were Muslims or that they acted in the cause of Islamic jihad. In one book the terrorists are portrayed as people fighting for a cause.
"In just a few years after Sept. 11," she continues, "the history of what happened on that tragic day was rewritten in our school textbooks. Omitting this vital information, that jihad was the motivation for the attacks, makes it difficult, if not impossible, for today's young teens, who don't remember 9/11, to really understand what happened that day – and why."
According to the executive summary of the report, "The full report reveals a pattern of historical revisionism, omissions and bias in the presentation of all aspects devoted to Islam in these textbooks. These aspects include its theology and doctrines, its role as a world religion, its ongoing struggle with Western tradition and its intrinsic anti-Semitism."
The summary continues, "Textbook errors identified in the report range from egregiously false historical statements to significant omissions and subtle half-truths. Some are blatant and obvious, others are subtle and deceptive. The errors in these textbooks are not grammatical or typographical. They are substantive, significant and often repetitive."
For example, the report notes the textbook "World History: Patterns of Interaction," published by McDougal Littell/Houghton Mifflin in 2007, glosses over the violent birth of Islam and paints its founder, Muhammad, in a glowing light.
"In Medina, Muhammad displayed impressive leadership skills," the textbook asserts. "He fashioned an agreement that joined his own people with the Arabs and Jews of Medina as a single community. These groups accepted Muhammad as a political leader. As a religious leader, he drew many more converts, who found his message appealing."
But did Muhammad win converts among and build a peace accord with the Jews? The study's founders cite several sources and recorded histories in asserting this description is a bald-faced lie.
"This language is a gross falsification of the relationship between Muhammad and the Jews of Medina," the report states. "Muhammad … expelled two of the Jewish tribes from Medina and destroyed the third, beheading the men and selling the women and children into slavery. This important and essential historical fact of the Medinan period is commonly omitted in the textbooks reviewed, and it is impossible for students to accurately understand the rise of Islam without it."
The report also questioned the textbooks' descriptions of jihad.
"An Islamic term that is often misunderstood is jihad," asserts Houghton Mifflin's 2003 textbook "Across the Centuries." "The term means 'to struggle,' to do one's best to resist temptation and overcome evil. Under certain conditions, the struggle to overcome evil may require action. The Qur'an and Sunna allow self-defense and participation in military conflict, but restrict it to the right to defend against aggression and persecution."
"The term jihad is, indeed, 'often misunderstood,'" the report replies, "primarily because faulty definitions like this are prevalent in academia and the media.
"First, this passage redundantly and incorrectly asserts that jihad warfare is solely defensive in nature," the report continues. "According to the Qur'an , the mandate of jihad includes aggressive warfare for the explicit purpose of making Islam supreme over the entire world. For instance, Surah 9:5 commands Muslims to 'fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, And seize them, beleaguer them, And lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war)' (parenthetical in original). Surah 9:29 commands Muslims to make war upon 'People of the Book [Christians and Jews], Until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, And feel themselves subdued.'"
The report's executive summary concludes, "It is clear that the textbooks examined throughout this report contain extensive amounts of material that is seriously historically flawed and often unmistakably biased."
Specifically, the report details dozens of ways in which it contends the textbooks stray from accurately teaching about Islam, including the following list, quoted directly from the report's summary:
- The doctrine of jihad is omitted, incorrectly defined, inaccurately described, or understated.
- Faulty description of women's rights under Islam: The oppressive and discriminatory nature of Shari'a law with respect to women is omitted, mischaracterized or understated.
- Omission or minimization of the Islamic slave trade, in sharp contrast with what is typically an extensive and appropriately critical examination of the Atlantic slave trade operated by Europeans.
- Aggrandizement and elevation of Muhammad's character that is contradicted by accepted historical facts.
- Omission or minimization of Muslim conquest and imperialism, in sharp contrast with what is typically an extensive and appropriately critical examination of European and other imperialism.
- False claim of Islam's historical tolerance of Jews and Christians.
- Misrepresentation of Shari'a Law in such areas as its applicability to non-Muslims and the separation of church and state.
- False presentation of the Crusades as the cause of the animosity between Christianity and Islam.
- Faulty historical narrative of the Crusades. Muslims in the Holy Land are commonly depicted as innocent victims of unprovoked aggression who were defending "their" lands against Christian invaders, rather than what is historically accurate: (1) that Muslims invaded and conquered the Holy Land centuries prior to the Crusades; (2) that Christians and Jews were victims of Muslim conquest and aggression centuries prior to the launching of the Crusades; and (3) that the Crusades were launched to wrest back control of the Holy Land from the Muslim invaders and conquerors.
- Chronological revisionism of the historical development of Judaism, Christianity and Islam which incorrectly portrays Islam as preceding Judaism and Christianity and the Muslims/Arabs as the indigenous people in the Holy Land, resulting in the delegitizimation of Israel.
- Treatment of Islamism as though it has no origins within classical Islam and Islam's Holy Books.
- Islamist Holocaust revisionism that attributes the creation of Israel to world guilt over the Holocaust and incorrectly maintains that Arabs were forced to give up land for the survivors of the Holocaust.
- Omission of the fact that the United Nations created a two-state partition for Palestine, one for the Jews and one for the Arabs.
- Omission of the fact that the Arabs refused to accept the offer of an independent Arab state contained in the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine.
- False claim of Israel's responsibility for the Palestinian refugee problem.
- Omission of the fact that the PLO's recognition of Israel's right to exist was and remains a verbal recognition only, contradicted by the unrevised PLO charter.
- Inaccurate claim that most Middle Eastern terrorist groups have roots in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- Omission of the fact that Islamic jihadists target Americans not only for their support of Israel but also for what they consider the "decadent nature" of Western way of life that threatens the spread of Islam throughout the world.
- Failure to explain why the Islamic jihadists targeted the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and to identify the fourth target as the White House.
"Perhaps the greatest disservice done to students," the report concludes, "is the net effect of the accumulation of these errors — the creation of a faulty historical narrative that not only misrepresents Islam but creates an inaccurate comparison between Islam, Christianity and Judaism, and between the Muslim world and the West. Regardless of the issue – slavery, conquest and imperialism, the Crusades, the Arab-Israeli conflict, to name a few – Islam and the Muslim world are not generally held to the same rigor of historical analysis that the textbooks apply to Christianity, Judaism and the West."
But to many Americans, the politically correct nature of handling 9/11 may be the most surprising.
The report, for example, quotes the textbook "Horizons," published by Harcourt in 2005: "On Sept. 11, 2001, the United States was the target of a horrible act of terrorism, or violence to further a cause."
The report explains, "The statement that the 9/11 attack was carried out to 'further a cause' is left undefined. There is no mention that the 'cause' was Islamic jihad."
It continues, "Rarely are the terrorists identified as Muslims, and the jihadist motivations for their actions are omitted. Omitting these two critical facts leaves students with an incomplete, and thus inaccurate, understanding as to why 9/11 happened."
ACT! for America Education claims it has sent the executive summary of its finding to over 70,000 state and local school board members nationwide. In addition, the executive summary contains a list of recommended actions on its final pages, for those who, according to Gabriel, want to "wake up America to what this report has uncovered."