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Sunday, November 15, 2009
Look who’s teaching
Johnny about Islam
Saudi-funded Islamic activists have final say in shaping public-school lessons on religions
Posted: May 03, 2004
1:00 am Eastern
By Paul Sperry
WASHINGTON — A top textbook consultant shaping classroom education on Islam in American public schools recently worked for a school funded and controlled by the Saudi government, which propagates a rigidly anti-Western strain of Islam, a WorldNetDaily investigation reveals.
The consultant, Susan L. Douglass, has also praised Pakistan’s madrassa schools as “proud symbols of learning,” even after the U.S. government blamed them for fueling the rise of the Taliban and al-Qaida.
Douglass, routinely described as a “scholar” or “historian,” has edited manuscripts of world history textbooks used by middle and high school students across the country. She’s also advised state education boards on curriculum standards dealing with world religion, and has helped train thousands of public school teachers on Islamic instruction.
In effect, she is responsible for teaching millions of American children about Islam, experts say, while operating in relative obscurity.
WorldNetDaily has learned that up until last year Douglass taught social studies at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, Va., which teaches Wahhabism through textbooks that condemn Jews and Christians as infidels and enemies of Islam. Her husband, Usama Amer, still teaches at the grades 2-12 school, a spokeswoman there confirmed. Both are practicing Muslims.
Susan L. Douglass, CIE consultant
The Saudi government funds the school, which has a sister campus in Fairfax, Va.
“It is a school that is under the auspices of the Saudi Embassy,” said Ali al-Ahmed, executive director of the Washington-based Saudi Institute, a leading Saudi opposition group. “So the minister of education appoints the principal of the school, and the teachers are paid by the Saudi government.”
He says many of the academy’s textbooks he has reviewed contain passages promoting hatred of non-Muslims. For example, the eleventh-grade text says one sign of the Day of Judgment will be when Muslims fight and kill Jews, who will hide behind trees that say: “Oh Muslim, oh servant of God, here is a Jew hiding behind me. Come here and kill him.”
Al-Ahmed, a Shiite Muslim born in predominantly Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, says the school’s religious curriculum was written by Sheik Saleh al-Fawzan, a senior member of the Saudi religious council, who he said has “encouraged war against unbelievers.” Al-Fawzan has authored textbooks used in Saudi schools.
A report released last year by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom found that the Saudi Ministry of Education publishes texts presenting Islam as “the only true religion” and denouncing all other religions as “invalid” and “misguided.”
“Christians and Jews repeatedly are labeled as infidels and enemies of Islam who should not be befriended or emulated, and are referred to in eighth-grade textbooks as ‘apes and pigs,'” the report said. In addition, it found that “some Saudi government-funded textbooks used in North American Islamic schools have been found to encourage incitement to violence again non-Muslims.”
Critics complain that Douglass, who taught at the Saudi academy for at least a decade, has convinced American textbook publishers and educators to gloss over the violent aspects of Islam to make the faith more appealing to non-Muslim children. The units on Islam reviewed by WND appear to give a glowing and largely uncritical view of the faith.
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Asked about it, Douglass referred questions to the Council on Islamic Education, which did not respond. CIE’s website lists her in its staff directory as a “principal researcher and writer.”
CIE is a Los Angeles-based Muslim activist group run by Shabbir Mansuri, who has been quoted in the local press saying he’s waging a “bloodless” revolution to fight what he calls anti-Muslim bias in public schools and promote Islam in a positive light in American classrooms. Mansuri, who consults with Saudi education ministers at his center, claimed in a 2002 op-ed piece that Islam has been on American soil “since before this nation was founded.”
Also, he spoke at a 2001 Islamic conference with several Muslim extremists, including an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, according to a speakers schedule for the event obtained by WND.
The three major U.S. publishers of world history texts – Houghton Mifflin, McGraw Hill and Prentice Hall – have all let Mansuri and Douglass review their books. In fact, Houghton Mifflin’s seventh-grade text, “Across the Centuries,” was republished according to CIE’s suggestions.
In the past, most K-12 texts devoted no more than a few pages to Islam. But thanks to CIE’s efforts since 1990 – including lobbying state education boards – grade-school text units on Islam have flourished. “Across the Centuries,” for one, spends more than 30 pages on Islam and includes colorful prose and graphics.
But it offers a sanitized version of Islam, critics say.
For instance, the text softens the meaning of “jihad” – a concept interpreted in Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s “The Meaning of the Holy Quran” to mean “waging war,” or “fighting in Allah’s cause” – with dying while fighting in the cause being the highest form of jihad.
Holy war is not part of the definition found in the “Across the Centuries” textbook, however.
“An Islamic term that is often misunderstood is jihad,” the text says on page 64. “The term means ‘to struggle,’ to do one’s best to resist temptation and overcome evil.”
One of CIE’s teachers guides lists quitting smoking as an example of jihad.
“It’s a sugar-coated definition,” said Edward White, associate counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based public-interest law firm which has fought what it sees as Islamic indoctrination in U.S. public education.
Even scholar John L. Esposito, considered by critics to be one of Islam’s leading apologists, has written that “jihad means the struggle to spread and to defend Islam” – through “warfare” if necessary.
Houghton Mifflin’s high school world history textbook, “Patterns of Interaction,” used in Texas and other states, reportedly leaves jihad out altogether.
White argues Houghton Mifflin has published an unrealistic picture of Islam, and has been manipulated by CIE, which clearly has a pro-Muslim bias.
The Boston-based publisher denies it. A spokesman called the assertion “unfounded.”
However, its editorial director for school social studies told a Muslim website in 1999 that it’s also allowed CIE to critique its coverage of Christian history, and to add its view of what the Crusades were like for the Muslims.
The article, posted on Sound Vision.com, a marketer of Muslim educational products, quotes Houghton Mifflin editor Abigail Jungreis as saying, “We’ve had a really good relationship with them (CIE) over the years. Their reviewers are knowledgeable.”
Jungreis singles out Douglass for praise in the article.
Douglass has argued for more in-depth coverage of Islam in classrooms, while at the same time advising that Christian principles, including historic facts such as Christ’s crucifixion, are clearly qualified with attributions such as “Christians believe.”
Houghton Mifflin is not the only major publisher influenced by CIE. Prentice Hall also collaborates with the group. And its “Connections to Today,” which is the most widely used world history book in the country, instructs students that jihad is an “inner struggle to achieve spiritual peace,” according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Also, CIE has helped write supplemental teachers materials that engage children in entertaining Muslim role-playing activities in the class. Parents say they make the study of Christianity and other religions seem dull by comparison.
A CIE-edited teachers aid used in California schools became the subject of a federal First Amendment case last year, as WorldNetDaily reported. The Thomas More Law Center sued a San Francisco-area school district on behalf of parents of seventh-graders who were required to “become Muslims” for two weeks as part of their world history unit on Islam.
However, U.S. District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton, a Clinton appointee, dismissed the lawsuit against the Byron Union School District, arguing the Muslim unit does not promote religion, and therefore does not violate the First Amendment’s clause against religious establishment.
White, the lawyer in the case, says he’s filed an appeal to overturn the ruling.
The controversial role-playing module, which CIE helped write, requires kids to recite Muslim prayers and verses of the Quran in class. Students also are required to give up things like watching TV or eating candy for a day to simulate Islamic fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“From the beginning, you and your classmates will become Muslims,” the Student Guide portion of the Islam module instructs seventh-graders as an introduction to the material.
White notes that the module, titled “Islam: A simulation of Islamic history and culture,” also white-washes the meaning of jihad, calling it a “struggle against oppression.”
According to a copyright statement on page 91 of the module obtained by WorldNetDaily, its California-based publisher, Interaction Publishers Inc., agreed to allow CIE “to revise the original manuscript” after CIE protested “errors of fact and interpretation in Western historians’ presentation of Islam.”
“They had a hand in the revisions to this handbook,” White asserted.
The same page states that the publisher also incorporated suggestions by Yousef Salem, associate director of the Islamic Education and Information Center in San Jose, Calif. Salem, a former Saudi resident, has praised the Muslim terrorist group Hezbollah, and called Israelis “terrorists.”
The module mirrors parts of the middle-school religious curriculum at the Islamic Saudi Academy where Douglass taught, and where her husband still teaches.
For instance, the Islamic religion coursework for Grade 7 emphasizes, among other things, the “importance of reciting the Quran,” according to the academy’s website. Eighth-graders, moreover, study “fasting” and “pilgrimage.” (They also study Quranic verses that deal with “the Punishment of the Disbelievers.”)
The California Department of Education, which requires all seventh-grade world history courses to include a unit on Islam, approved the text and module. In 1998, the state overhauled its standards for its Islam unit to include more teaching about the Muslim prophet Muhammad and the Quran. Mansuri made numerous trips to Sacramento to lobby for the changes, and the department invited CIE to review its draft.
Many California parents say the state essentially is allowing Muslim activists to brainwash their kids into accepting Islam, while at the same time marginalizing Christianity.
In contrast to the seventh-grade Muslim unit, where children are first introduced to Islam, the earlier one on Christianity does not involve any role play. Students are not asked to recite Christian prayers or memorize Scripture.
Moreover, parents argue that neither the Islam chapter nor the role-playing module critically discuss the anti-Christian jihads of old, or new ones led by Islamic terrorists like Osama bin Laden. In fact, Byron teachers warned students against saying anything negative about Islam, U.S. court documents show.
And Islam is praised for tolerance and acceptance of other beliefs.
Yet the unit on Christianity is critical of that core American faith, particularly concerning the Crusades (which came on the heels of earlier Islamic invasions of non-Muslim territory).
One local parent, Jen Schroeder, told WND she worries California may be unwittingly producing more John Walker Lindhs. Lindh, who joined the Taliban, was a product of San Francisco public schools.
“John Walker Lindh is the fruit of California’s efforts. He was a young impressionable child, just as my son is,” she said. “How many more John Walkers before we stop promoting Islam in public schools?”
She and other critics charge CIE is not just interested in correcting factual or historical errors in textbooks. They say it has a hidden agenda: using public schools to promote Islam. And to do that, they say, it must first make it less threatening to nonbelievers, and more mainstream.
But in an October 2002 white paper, Douglass argued schools should respect the First Amendment and avoid indoctrinating students into religion.
“Teaching about religion should neither promote nor denigrate the ideals of any faith,” she wrote.
At the same time, however, she warned teachers against “presenting non-Western religions as static traditions whose unfamiliarity to students can make them seem irrational.”
And in the same article, “Teaching about Religion,” she defended Pakistan’s madrassas, which U.S. officials in the wake of the 9-11 attacks condemned as hatcheries for future bin Ladens.
According to Douglass, the Islamic schools, where young Muslim boys endlessly chant verses from the Quran, are “proud symbols of learning” which “have become confused in the public mind with symbols of ignorance.”
Douglass and other staffers at CIE have trained more than 8,000 public school teachers in America on Islam instruction, according to the SoundVision.com article. The center has sold hundreds of copies of its teachers guide to public schools. Besides holding teacher workshops, CIE staffers also lecture at schools and colleges about Islam.
‘Islam an American religion’
Douglass is associated with another Muslim activist group, one that is under federal investigation.
From 1988 to 1994, she wrote K-6 social studies books for the International Institute of Islamic Thought, or IIIT, a Saudi-tied charity. Federal authorities in 2002 raided IIIT’s Northern Virginia offices on suspicion of terrorist ties.
Shortly after the raids, Mansuri defended the group’s officials as “law-abiding Muslims” in a column distributed by the State Department’s Office of International Information Programs.
IIIT president Taha Jaber al-Alwani once signed a copy of a fatwa declaring that jihad is the only way to liberate Palestine, according to a federal affidavit for the search warrant. He’s also close to Sami al-Arian, recently arrested on terrorism-related charges.
In the same 2002 column, “Muslims Due Place at Table,” Mansuri asserted: “Islam is an American religion,” adding that “Islam has been on this soil since before the nation was founded, having come over with African slaves.”
In July 2001, Mansuri spoke at the Islamic Circle of North America’s convention in Cleveland with New York imam Siraj Wahhaj, who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and with Sheik Abdur Rahman al-Sudais, the senior imam at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, who has been quoted vilifying Jews as the “scum of humanity” and “the grandsons of monkeys and pigs.”
The previous year Mansuri also appeared with Wahhaj at a fund-raising banquet hosted by the Saudi-backed Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR. Mansuri received an award for helping to eliminate Muslim stereotypes.
Some CAIR officials recently have been arrested on terrorism-related charges.
Nonetheless, the Washington-based Muslim-rights group has launched a coast-to-coast drive to stock public libraries with Islamic books as part of its campaign to educate Americans on the “peaceful” attributes of Islam.
One of the books on its recommended reading list: “Beyond a Thousand and One Nights” by Susan L. Douglass.
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