Middle East studies in the News
Has Your Kid Gone on an Imaginary Hajj Today? [incl. Mark LeVine, Khaleel Mohammed, John Esposito]
by William F. Marshall
Newton, Massachusetts, that Ground Zero (or Mecca?) of political correctness, provides America with a glimpse of the false, or at least highly distorted, understanding that modern liberals would have America's youth believe about the practice and history of Islam and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has published an important new monograph, entitled "Indoctrinating Our Youth: How a U.S. Public School Curriculum Skews the Arab-Israeli Conflict and Islam," that has meticulously dissected the materials used by the Newton Public Schools system in its high schools -- Newton North and Newton South -- to teach 9th and 10th graders about Islam and the never-ending Arab-Israeli conflict. The short book is a fine case study in the process by which our nation's young adults are propagandized about Islam, and develop a bias against America and Israel. It should be read by every parent of high school-aged (and younger) students, high school administrators, and teachers.
The core of the book is a set of teaching materials that my friend and colleague, the Harvard/MIT-trained defense policy expert and intelligence specialist, Dr. William Saxton (now head of the nonprofit research and education organization, Citizens For National Security) and I, working through Judicial Watch, obtained from the City of Newton after we waged a nearly two-year long administrative jihad with the attorneys of Newton to release the records. In addition to our time, we were required by Newton's legal eagles to pay thousands of dollars to have the materials provided to us, to cover the collection and processing of these presumably public materials.
In the first of several open records requests I sent to the City of Newton, filed on October 31, 2014, I sought all records relating to the teaching of Islam and the Arab-Israeli conflict, including such items as lesson plans, handouts, textbook titles and excerpts, class notes, multimedia presentations and the like. What was eventually produced in the nearly 600 pages of material was deeply concerning, as the experts at CAMERA revealed.
The authors of "Indoctrinating Our Youth" did yeoman's work in carefully examining the materials used to teach the 9th grade World History unit on Islam and the 10th grade World History unit on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which exposed the use of slanted texts written by Muslim apologists, such as Georgetown's John Esposito, often factually flawed material, superficial anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian opinion pieces in nonscholarly publications like Time magazine and the Guardian newspaper, and videos produced in collaboration with the likes of University of California Irvine Professor Mark LeVine, a prominent advocate of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is bent on the economic destruction of the state of Israel.
Examples abound in "Indoctrinating Our Youth's" explication of Newton's whitewashing of Islam in its teaching materials. The authors note the use in the 9th grade course of a textbook called A Muslim Primer: Beginner's Guide to Islam, written by Ira Zepp, to discuss the status of women in Islam. The CAMERA analysts note that Mr. Zepp "has no formal credentials in Islamic scholarship" and the chapter used "fails to offer a serious, dispassionate survey of women's conditions in Islamic culture."
The CAMERA experts note: "A more serious shortcoming is the author's [Zepp's] concealment of information about practices like honor killings, genital mutilation, the stoning of women accused of adultery, or the treatment of women as property in some Islamic countries."
"Indoctrinating Our Youth" cites Dr. Saxton, whose organization, Citizens for National Security, is the nation's leader in examining school textbooks for factual accuracy. They write, "Saxton estimates that he fields about six inquiries related to inaccuracies in textbooks on the subject of Islam and the Arab-Israeli conflict every day."
A major fault that the CAMERA analysts found of the Newton schools' Islamic materials is the teachers' heavy reliance on unvetted, unscholarly, and frequently dubious hand-outs given to students, often pulled off the Internet, which contain unsupported assertions. For example, one hand-out given to Newton students stated that "all Muslim scholars agree on the fact that the first, greatest jihad is the personal-spirited struggle towards discipline."
As the CAMERA authors point out, highly renowned scholars of Islam, like Bernard Lewis of Princeton, offer "a different definition of jihad, contending that it was used traditionally to rally Muslims to war against non-believers and that its object was to 'bring the whole world under Islamic law.'" Similarly, they note, Muslim scholar Khaleel Mohammed of the University of San Diego "stressed the importance of understanding that over the course of Islam's history, the main emphasis of jihad has shifted between the inner struggle to the obligation to war in the name of Islam. He [Prof. Mohammed] stated, 'Islam knows its share of violence, and to deny that history is disingenuous.'"
In my own review of the raw materials from Newton, I thought the CAMERA authors may have been too generous in their assessment of the Newton materials. On one page of a lesson plan [page 105] in which the "Spread of Islam" is discussed, to explain the rapid spread of the religion, the teacher's notes indicate: "In general, decent conquerors (easier on some than their previous conquerors had been) offered: 1.) convert of [sic] Islam; 2.) pay a reasonable tax; 3.) die." Sound like decent conquerors to me.
In one class assignment [page 216] entitled "Cities: Connecting the Islamic World," students become pretend Muslims. The teacher writes: "As our concluding project on the Islamic world, you will work in groups to simulate a historical hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca in class. Each of you will be part of a group of Muslim pilgrims from one of the following eight Islamic cities or regions, around a rough time period." The teacher then lists out eight "Islamic" cities (which includes Jerusalem, by the way). Each group of students is told they will set up a "tent" (presumably imaginary?) which will display newspaper articles the students have written about "their" cities and cultural artifacts they have created to represent their Islamic "hometowns."
Imagine for a moment if the classroom assignment were to pretend to be part of a group of Christian pilgrims visiting Rome to attend Mass given by the pope in St. Peter's Square, or a group of orthodox Jews visiting the Wailing Wall to pray, and each student had to write articles and bring artifacts from their "Christian" or "Jewish" city. I suspect Newton's liberals would be outraged and ACLU lawyers would have a field day on talk shows about "separation of church and state."
This analysis of Newton's Islamic teaching materials should serve as a signal flare to parents everywhere. Find out what your children are being taught about Islam and Israel. Is it imbalanced? Is it inaccurate? Is the violent history of Islam virtually ignored, as it is by Newton? If so, it might be time to chat with the school board.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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