Ahead of the California Board of Education meeting on Thursday to consider the new school curriculum framework, a group 25 experts on Islam and Muslims societies have expressed concern over many references related to India, particularly the notion of forced conversions to Islam in the subcontinent.
The California Instructional Quality Commission has proposed a draft for the consideration of the Board. The most contentious debates related to India and South Asia were on the reference of the entire South Asia as 'India' in some contexts and the treatment of caste. Some Hindu groups argued that caste was not linked to the Hindu religion.
"We are concerned that conversations surrounding the historical identity, contributions and legacy of Muslims have taken place without due input from qualified scholars with expertise in history and religion relating to Islam and Muslim societies," the scholars said.
Among them are John L. Esposito, Professor of Religion and International Affairs and of Islamic Studies, Georgetown University; William Albert Graham, Jr., Albertson Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University; Dr. Hatem Bazian, co-founder and Professor of Islamic Law and Theology, Zaytuna College; Jonathan Brown, Professor and Chair of Islamic Civilization, Georgetown University.
The scholars said the statement in the proposed curriculum framework that "sometimes Turkish Muslim leaders forced Hindus to convert, but at other times rulers practiced religious toleration" should be deleted.
"There seems an unusual propensity to attribute "forced conversion" to Islam in this curriculum vis-à-vis other religions. The primary evidence on the claim is lacking and/or controversial... This claim, often propagated by Hindu nationalist groups, originates from orientalist historians Elliot & Dawson in their work "The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians. These claims have long been discredited," they have written to the Board.
In a similar submission, 11 Muslims groups have also asked the Board to delete references that have the potential to fan Islamophobia.