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Textbooks Proselytize for Allah By: Kalavai Venkat
FrontPageMagazine.com | Saturday, February 18, 2006

Muslim organizations have not only used California schools and textbooks to proselytize for Allah, but they now seek to portray other religions through an Islamic prism, claim the modern Jews do not have an historical connection to the nation of Israel, and reintroduce the charge of deicide to American textbooks. At least three major publishers whose textbooks are under consideration for adoption by the State of California – Ballard & Tighe, Houghton-Mifflin, and McDougal Littell – have enlisted Shabbir Mansuri, Founding Director of Council on Islamic Education (CIE), as content consultant. Publishers shared their pre-print edition of textbooks with CIE, thereby facilitating the sanitizing of Islam before the textbooks made it to the public domain. But that was apparently not enough for CIE; they have submitted an additional set of edits that would help seventh grade Californians understand their respective religions from an Islamic perspective.

Just Call Allah “God”


The would-be textbook editors insist the deity of Islam not be identified as “Allah,” but rather “God.” One proposed CIE edit reads:


In describing the beliefs, the authors’ insistence on leaving the word Allah un-translated in some instances creates the impression that Allah is the distinct god of the Arabs, rather than the One God worshipped by Jews, Christians, Muslims and others. [CIEAP – 3; ML – 80-138, 350-354, 498-499]


In effect, this would have the State of California certify that the Muslim deity is the true God. At the same time, if this proposed edit is accepted, not only Peoples of the Book, but even “idolaters” can take comfort in the “fact” that Allah is their God. Since textbooks portray Islam as a replacement of other Abrahamic religions, supplanting “God” for “Allah” will help impressionable children internalize their portrayal of Islam as the final revelation to mankind.


CIE also insists that the word “God” should replace all names given to God in Judaism:


The Hebrew name for God is never pronounced by Jews, as it is considered too holy. God is represented by the Hebrew letters YHWH. As indicated, the references to “Yahweh” should be changed to “God,” just as the Arabic word “Allah” should be introduced and then all subsequent references should be to “God.” [CIEAP – 6; HRW – Item 12, SE 232]


One is curious why CIE did not propose words such as Adonai or Ha-Shem, which the Jews use to refer to God…or when it became a Muslim concern.


Perhaps textbooks should teach the fact that Allah was one of the presiding deities of the pre-Islamic Pagan Arabs, who worshipped Allah (then addressed Al-ilah) as the Moon God. It would ensure that children practicing other religions are not misled into thinking that God is synonymous with Allah. But that would work against CIE’s apparent agenda of using school textbooks to proselytize.




CIE seems to be a little upset over the usage of the word “Israel” in textbooks, too:


It is important to avoid treating the name “Israel” as the normative designation for territory whose boundaries and claimants have shifted throughout human history. Of course, through proper attribution of their perspectives, textbooks can discuss the importance of this region to various groups in time. Interest groups may seek to advance nationalistic or ideological claims about natural or de facto “ownership” of land, but the state must ensure that educational materials do not do so. [CIEAP – 4, B&T – General comment]


Never mind that the region has been called Israel since the time of Exodus. Yet, the usage of the name Israel should be avoided to prevent “ideological” [read: Jewish] claims of “ownership” of the land. CIE is also upset that a textbook has explained the etymological basis of the word Palestine by deriving it from the Greek cognate Philistia. A proposed edit whines:


It does not mean that the ”Palestine” of today [or Palestinians] are cognate with Philistia or Philistines, just as modern Israel or Israelis [of various racial/ethnic backgrounds] are not cognate with the ancient kingdom of Israel and the Israelites of that time period. [CIEAP – 6; HRW – Item 7, TE 229]


How neat! Even while discussing etymology of the word “Palestine,” CIE thinks that it is essential to deny that the Jews belong to Israel. The obsession to deny the Israeli roots of the Jews is visible in another proposed CIE edit:


For some reason, the suggested [by CRP/IMAP Advisory panel] change emphasizes the geographic placement of the Jewish people as more important than the integrity of their religion and way of life. The change suggests that one is “lost” [in religious terms] if one is geographically displaced rather than if one no longer retains religious beliefs and practices. One wonders if Spanish Jews or American Jews today are ‘lost.’ [CIEAP – 11; MMH – Item 28, TE 366]


 Translation: please don't tell them to come to Israel.


Bring Back Deicide


The ridiculous charge that the Jews were guilty of Christ-killing has no historical basis, but it resulted in their persecution for 2, 000 years, culminating in the horror of the Holocaust. Many distinguished and responsible Christian theologians such as the former Catholic clergyman Rev. James Carroll [Constantine’s Sword: the Church and the Jews, a History] and the Lutheran theologian Professor Norman Beck [Removing Anti-Jewish Polemic from Our Christian Lectionaries - a Proposal] have confronted this tenacious anti-Semitism, and have strived to eliminate it.


But, a CIE edit attempts to reverse such noble initiatives. It cautions:


The suggested passive construction “Jesus was arrested” occludes the particular historical actors in the situation. Despite the understandable sensitivity of the subject for Christian-Jewish relations, it is important to present a historical narrative that is careful, accurate and keeping with the criteria to provide a story well told. The sentence could read: “Jesus was detained by some Jewish leaders and turned over to Roman authorities for judgment.” […] Making the Romans the prime or only actors in the situation is simply uncalled for. [CIEAP – 10; HM – Item 32-33, PE 470-471]


What motivates CIE to propose such an edit which could unleash anti-Semitism in the classroom?


If historical accuracy is a concern, CIE could start with Islam. Henri Lammens demonstrates that the sira, or life sketch of Muhammad, as derived from the hadiths, is unreliable, self-contradictory, and was put together well over a century after the death of Muhammad [Ibn Warraq (ed.): The Quest for the Historical Muhammad]. Yet, textbooks present Islamic hagiographic accounts as history.


But presenting such facts might dampen the efforts to proselytize Californians.


Glossary of acronyms


CIEAP: Council on Islamic Education, Assessment of Programs submitted for 2005 California History-Social Science adoption and assessment of CRP/IMAP findings. The alpha-numeric notation following the acronym refers to the page number in the CIEAP document.


ML: McDougal-Littell, World History: Medieval and Early Modern Times [Grade 7]. The numeral following the acronym refers to the page numbers in the textbook to which the CIEAP edit pertains.


B&T: Ballard & Tighe, Explore World History [Grade 7].


HRW: Holt, Reinhart and Winston, Holt California Social Studies [Grades 6-8].


HM: Houghton-Mifflin History-Social Science [Grades K-6]. 

MMH: Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, California Vistas [Grades K-6].

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Kalavai Venkat is an India-born, Silicon Valley-based orthodox, practising, agnostic Hindu.

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