Islamophobia: Now in American Children’s Textbooks?

" ... The book Muslims in America says that 'some Muslims began immigrating to the United States in order to transform American society, sometimes through the use of terrorism.' The cover of Radical Islam features a machine gun and a Muslim head scarf, with what looks like bloodstains underneath the scarf and the title word Radical. The book is rife with incorrect information and fear mongering and ultimately seeks to paint a picture that Muslims in America are to be treated with suspicion and that they all have links to terrorism. ... "

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Al-Jazeerah | April 20, 2010

As if the adult media’s vitriol wasn’t enough, the seven-million strong American Muslim community, is now being faced by the alarming publication of a series of ‘children's books’, containing misleading and inflammatory rhetoric about the Islamic faith. The 10-book series - entitled the "World of Islam," – is published by Mason Crest Publishing in collaboration with the Philadelphia-based pro-Israel and pro-war Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Anti-Islamic sentiment pervades the entire series, portraying Muslims as inherently violent and deserving suspicion. It encourages young readers to believe Muslims are terrorists, who seek to undermine US society.

For example:

The book "Muslims in America", says that "some Muslims began immigrating to the United States in order to transform American society, sometimes through the use of terrorism." The cover of Radical Islam features a machine gun and a Muslim head scarf, with what looks like bloodstains underneath the scarf and the title word Radical. The book is rife with incorrect information and fear mongering and ultimately seeks to paint a picture that Muslims in America are to be treated with suspicion and that they all have links to terrorism.

The text titled Islam, Law and Human Rights begins and ends with the same thing, that Muslim majority nations are the only ones that violate human rights laws set forth by the United Nations – for some reason China and North Korea are exceptions to that rule.

The History of Islam offers only a stunted glimpse of Islamic History and focuses primarily on extremism and contains an outrageous quote: “Today, the great majority of Muslims accept the idea that jihad means a struggle against non-Muslims to increase the area under the rule of Islam.”

Another book shows an image of two 7-year-old girls wearing head scarves under the heading "Security Threats."

The book Islam in Europe states that Muslim immigrants are the source of all social conflict and that Europe is in serious danger because of Muslim immigration. A chronology in the book starts with 1988 and lists 10 events, seven of which involve extremist Muslims participating in bombings, hijackings or other violence. It is a common knowledge that Muslims have been in Europe for hundreds of years.

The 10-volume series includes volumes by Barry Rubin on "The History of Islam," the late Michael Radu on "Islam in Europe," Anna Melman on "Islam, Law and Human Rights," John Calvert on "Divisions within Islam," and Alan Luxenberg on "Radical Islam."

The Foreign Policy Research Institute suggests that the books should be a mandatory purchase for all public libraries that support middle and high school curriculum on Islam.

Tellingly, none of the authors in the series, designed for middle and high school students, are Muslim and a number happen to be Jewish.

The books cited a well-known Islamophobe, Daniel Pipes, who received the "Guardian of Zion" award, in May 2006. The award is given annually to a prominent supporter of the state of Israel, from the Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. Not surprisingly, Pipes circulated his own e-mail to defend the controversial series. The books also cite anti-Islam activists such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

The Pennsylvania chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has begun a public awareness campaign against the books. "This is not about Muslims being offended," Moein Khawaja, the chapter's civil rights director, told a news conference on March 17, 2010. "Filled with incorrect information and deception, these books are contrary to the education mission of schools and libraries."

"The overall theme of the books is that Muslims are inherently violent, that Islam is a second-rate religion and that one should be wary of Muslims in any society," Moein Khawaja, said adding: "These books do not fulfill the mission of a school, which is to educate."

CAIR called on schools and libraries to exchange The World of Islam for Introducing Islam, with another series published by Mason Crest that was written in cooperation with scholars of Islam and is more accurate.

Khawaja said complaints from council chapters across the country lead him to believe the World of Islam series are on bookshelves in about two dozen states.

Alarmed by the campaign against the World of Islam, right-wing authors and groups have attacked the CAIR which is a leading American Muslim civil advocacy group. They have accused CAIR of being a front for the Palestinian Hamas faction and of receiving funding from the Arab world.

Stephen Schwartz

Alan Luxenberg, Vice President of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and author of "Radical Islam," circulated comments of Stephen Schwartz, the Executive Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington, DC. His comments were disseminated under the headline: Muslim Leader Praises Mason Crest-FPRI Series on Islam.

Before divulging Schwartz’s comments on the controversial text books let us see who this person is and what is the agenda of his so-called Center for Islamic Pluralism?

The agenda-driven Center for Islamic Pluralism (CIP) was established in 2005 with the seed money provided by Daniel Pipes to promote so-called “moderate Islam”, oppose the influence of so-called “militant Islam” among American Muslims, in the America media, in American education … and with U.S. governmental bodies.

Pipes, who created Middle East Forum (MEF) in Philadelphia in 1994, has long campaigned against the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and several other national Islamic groups. Not surprisingly, the top agenda of the CIP is to discredit and dislodge major American Muslim civil advocacy group such as CAIR and Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Other Muslim and Arab organizations on the hit list of CIP are: the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), the Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada (MSA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), as well as "secular" groups, including the Arab-American Institute (AAI) and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).

Schwartz, a former Trotskyite militant who says he became a Sufi Muslim in 1997, begins his comments on the controversial books with a tirade on CAIR. He says: “The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is the leading Islamic extremist organization in North America. CAIR pretends to be a civil liberties group but has a long record of promoting radical ideology and of flimsy complaints of discrimination against Muslims.”

About the Mason Crest-FPRI Series on Islam, Schwartz says:

“These texts are neither prejudicial nor ideological; they represent established historical opinion and accurate reporting on present-day challenges affecting Muslims and non-Muslims alike. CAIR is attempting, as often in the past, to reinforce its claim to be a privileged interpreter of Islam in the United States.”

Islamophobia

In the post-9/11 America, the Mason Crest-FPRI controversial Series on Islam are the latest episode in the reinforcement of Islamophobia which may be defined as “alienation, discrimination, harassment and violence rooted in misinformed and stereotyped representations of Islam and its adherents.” No doubt the new series on Islam reinforce Islamophobia through misleading and inflammatory rhetoric about the Islamic faith.

Americans' attitudes about Islam and Muslims are fuelled mainly by political statements and media reports that focus almost solely on the negative image of Islam and Muslims. The vilification of Islam and Muslims has been relentless among segments of the media and political classes since 9/11. Politicians, authors and media commentators are busy in demonizing Islam, Muslims and the Muslim world. In the post 9/11 America attacking Islam and Muslims became the fashionable sport for the radio, television and print media. While print and electronic media continues unabated campaign to smear Islam, radio talk show hosts are busy in spewing out venoms against Islam and Muslims. Surprisingly, even a higher court rules that a letter calling for killing Muslims is protected by the freedom of speech.

The events of 9/11 were used as an excuse to greatly magnify the hostility toward Muslims and cloak it in pseudo-patriotism. This reminds me of the Muslim-bashing campaign at the US campuses in 2007, when some bigots seized the opportunity to create hatred against Islam and Muslims. In a bid to spread fear and hatred under the guise of patriotism and freedom of speech, David Horowitz, a neo-conservative polemicist, launched an Arab/Muslim-bashing campaign at campuses across the nation in October 2007. Borrowing from President Bush’s terminology ‘Islamo-Fascists,’ Horowitz packaged his anti-Arab/anti-Muslim campaign as “Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week.”

Horowitz asked students participating in the campaign to disseminate presentations, such as “The Islamic Mein Kampf,” (meaning the Quran). In a throwback to McCarthyism, right-wing students were encouraged to issue press releases condemning those who refused to sign for the Islamo-Fascist week. It means either you are with us or with our enemy.

The irony is, that fascism is a European concept, that gained a strong following in the early 20th century. Yet hundreds of thousands of volunteer Muslims, now conveniently forgotten, fought against this creation of the ‘civilised world’, alongside the allies in the Second World War. Today, those opponents are remembered as Nazis, yet they were in fact, largely Christian Roman Catholics and Lutherans. They wore religious insignia such as the Iron Cross. Today, it would be patently wrong and preposterous to lambast wholesale, these mainstream Christian groups. No such empathy for Muslims though!

But just who are the “Islamic fascists? According to Horowitz’s FrontPage magazine, they include the Muslim Student Association, which has chapters on hundreds of U.S. campuses--and the Council on American Islamic Relations, which advocates for civil rights and tracks hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims.

There was a collection of bigots and crackpots that Horowitz had recruited to speak for the Oct 22-26 2007 Islamophobia week. Islamophobe right wing columnist Ann Coulter was one. Other luminaries included: Rick Santorum, a former US Senator, who has compared homosexuality to incest; Robert Spencer who claims Islam is "the world's most intolerant religion"; and noted anti-Arab commentator and Islamophobe Daniel Pipes who once said that "Palestinians are a miserable people…and they deserve to be."

Some other well-known Islamophobe speakers were: Dennis Prager, Sean Hannity and Wafa Sultan. More intellectual takes came from such neoconservative icons of Middle East policy as Michael Ledeen, who seeks to apply Machiavellian principles to the modern world.

Surely such a notorious lineup of racist, bigoted, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic and Machiavellian speakers did not serve to educate but to promote hatred and spread misinformation and lies.

Unfortunately, interested groups are now trying to promote a prejudiced view about Islam and its adherents in our classrooms to poison the minds of our young generation.

The cult of hatred against Islam and Muslims is manifesting in different sectors of society. True, the demonizing of Arabs and Muslims in America began well before the terrible tragedy of September 11, 2001 but, what is new post-9/11, is that now demonizing Muslims and Islam is not only more widespread but also considerably more mainstream and respectable. In short, Muslim-bashing has become socially acceptable in the United States.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective: www.amperspective.com email: asghazali@gmail.com