|Back to September Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 260||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||SEPTEMBER 2007|
|The Arab World Studies Notebook|
The Notebook teaches Muslim beliefs about the origins of Islam and the Koran as established facts, although these origins involve supernatural elements, and most non-Muslims do not accept them. Instead of teaching about the various existing opinions on Middle Eastern history and politics, the Notebook presents only those views held by the MEPC.
The Notebook also ignores or explains away problematic aspects of Islam and Muslim culture. For example, it claims that the Koran condemns wars of territorial conquest, and then sidesteps a long history of such conquest, noting only that Arabian Muslims built a great empire that spanned three continents, never directly stating how they did so.
Nor does the Notebook reconcile the supposed condemnation of territorial conquest with the life of Mohammed or the concept of jihad (as the word is used by foreign policy establishments, academics, and terrorists; in more and more textbooks, jihad is defined as an internal, personal struggle). In traditional Muslim thought, the world is divided into two parts: the Dar al-Islam or "domain of Islam," and the Dar al-Harb or "domain of war." Apparently, the Notebook would have American students and teachers believe that all Muslims hope to bring the Dar al-Harb into the Dar al-Islam by purely peaceable means.
On the subject of women, Shabbas said that "in the Koran, God has no gender, nor does the Koran consider women inferior to or subservient to men. Indeed, Islam is deeply committed to social justice and knowledge for understanding" (Daily Star (Lebanon), 4-22-04). The Notebook avoids the important issue of women's limited legal and political rights in many Muslim nations.
The Notebook also makes the startling claim that Muslims sailed across the Atlantic and "discovered" the New World in the year 889. Although there is no evidence for this, Shabbas and another author claim in the Notebook that Muslims spread across North, Central, and South America and throughout the Caribbean before the arrival of Columbus.
Later, English explorers in North America supposedly met "Iroquois and Algonquin chiefs with names like Abdul-Rahim and Abdallah Ibn Malik." When Peter DiGangi, then the Director of the Algonquin Nation Secretariat, challenged this claim directly and called it "preposterous" and "outlandish," MEPC eventually agreed to remove the passage concerning Algonquin history from subsequent copies.
One notable exercise the Notebook curriculum introduces is a world religions "pretest" asking teachers and students to identify from which of three holy books eleven chosen quotations come. At the end, against expectation it turns out that all eleven came from the Koran. "Think of 6th-graders participating in this activity," said one concerned mother who sat in on an MEPC-sponsored teacher-training seminar that used the Notebook. "It intentionally muddies the waters and gets in their heads to tell them all religions are the same."
The same mother was shocked by the way the seminar presented Islam in comparison with other religions. The materials affirm that the God of Islam, the God of Judaism and the God of Christianity are one and the same, an idea that most adherents of all three religions repudiate.
The seminar also used the fact that "Allah" is the Arabic word for God to imply that Allah, the God of Islam, is the God of all the earth. The seminar further compared Christianity unfavorably with Islam, referring to the divorce of faith and reason that Christianity has supposedly caused in the "post-Christian West." The answer to this dilemma, in the seminar's opinion, is found in the Koran.