Islam in American Textbooks

Fox News ,March 8, 2009


Note from Daniel Pipes:

I prepared for this interview on the Fox New Channel armed with quotes expecting to discuss specifics of the coverage of Islam in select U.S. textbook. Only when the program was already underway did I learn that there would be another interviewee with me and that it would be Hussein Ibish.

Ibish twice dismissed the Muslims who support terrorism as a “tiny speck.” I disputed that on air but, having prepped to discuss textbooks, was not equipped with specific figures and citations.

Here, afterwards, are a couple of statistics to bear out my on-air statements about percentages:


USA Today: “The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found in a national survey that nearly 80% of Muslims in the USA say suicide bombings are never justified to “defend Islam,” but a quarter of those under 30 think such attacks are OK in some circumstances.”


Reuters: “Support in some degree for suicide bombings among younger European Muslims ranged from 22 percent in Germany to 29 percent in Spain, 35 percent in Britain and 42 percent in France, according to a May 2006 Pew poll.”

There are many more such statistics. For starters, look at the numbers at British Opinion Surveys from an Islamist HellandMore Survey Research from a British Islamist Hell.”

For a general discussion of this topic, see Michael Freund, “The straightforward arithmetic of jihad,” The Jerusalem Post, January 30, 2007. As he puts it, “Now, one in four justifying terror may not be a majority, but it certainly isn’t a ‘small fringe’ either.”

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Pipes



Eric Shawn: Are our children being taught a politically correct version of Islam? Well, this study from the American Textbook Council says some school textbooks portray Islam in the most favorable light, while downplaying Islamic extremism.


One junior high school book described jihad this way: “jihad is defined as a struggle within each individual to overcome difficulties and strive to please God. Sometimes it may be a physical struggle for protection against enemies.” Muslim activists say the attention should not be on terrorism or extremists, but others say youngsters are not getting the full story.


Joining us now is Daniel Pipes of, who for years has studied Islamic extremism, and on the telephone we have Hussein Ibish, who is the executive director of the Foundation for Arab-American Leadership. Daniel, let me start with you, when you see jihad described that way as a “physical struggle for protection” – what is your reaction?


Daniel Pipes: Well Eric I’m astonished. There is a history of nearly 1400 years of violent jihad that led to warfare, destruction, enslavement, devastation. It is a fact, it is a reality, and for history books in the United States and in public schools to ignore this is to ignore not just historical fact but the main security problem of the United States today.



Eric Shawn: When you talk about security. Let me give you an example of another book, another book talking about the 9/11 hijackers under a chapter about Islamic fundamentalism, It said they were a “team of terrorists.” Didn’t mention their religion—it did say they were from Al-Qaeda but showed no pictures of the burning towers at all and no pictures of the people fleeing, I mean the critics say that shows that the truth is being sanitized for our children.


Daniel Pipes: I think there are two reasons for this, Eric. One has to do with the activism of Islamist groups that are urging to have these unpleasant topics not discussed and secondly there is a receptivity to that activism on the part of the educational establishment which tends to see Muslims not in any kind of threatening posture but as victims, as people who are subject to discrimination and other forms of bias and therefore who need to be reached out to, need to have the way made simple and clear for them so anything that is unpleasant should be swept under the rug.

So, between this yin and yang, between the Islamists who are pushing and an educational establishment that is receptive you have an extraordinary vision of Islam not just in the couple of books you mention but across the board, every single book one looks at one finds the same distortion of the record.


Eric Shawn: Hussein Ibish is on the telephone, Mr. Ibish what’s your view? Do you believe our children are getting an inaccurate view of Islam?


Hussein Ibish: Well, I think it—across the board, probably not from school textbooks as far as I know. It is—the two examples you cited, the first case I think is a perfect—a well established, very well accepted mainstream definition of jihad that is, you know, ought to be embrace and promoted, unless you want to go ahead and say, oh Bin laden is right and he is the definitor of Islam and the extremists are—they have the interpretation exactly correct where you’ve got the mainstream community and mainstream scholars, saying no that is not what the religious concept means.


Eric Shawn: I know but what about homicide bombings and suicide bombings and holy war and Islamic jihad?

Hussein Ibish: Right, that absolutely, that exists as a political phenomenon and I think it is very appropriate to study that in history and political science classes but not a class about religion, because ultimately that doesn’t define the religious traditions of anything but a tiny speck of the Muslim community of the entire world and certainly doesn’t reflect the attitudes of the Muslims in the United States. And if you teach that in history and you should in history and political science classes but not a class about religious beliefs because it doesn’t define the religious beliefs of any except a small fringe. It would be like taking the KKK and saying this is what Christians think or something it doesn’t reflect mainstream Christianity and that doesn’t reflect mainstream Islam.


Eric Shawn: What would you like to see the texts—go ahead Daniel, you can respond.

Daniel Pipes: That small tiny fringe is actually poll after poll, suggests, between 20, 30, 40 and even 50%,. This is not some tiny fringe. This is a very substantial part of the Muslim population both in the United States and worldwide.

Hussein Ibish: That is not true at all. The poll in the United States show that almost no American Muslims supported suicide bombings . I mean, it was a—a tiny speck and they had—had to break it down into very small sort of youthful demographic, to even extract something that was statistically measurable vis-a-vis people who are sympathetic to suicide bombing and is not true.


Daniel Pipes: This is the standard apologetic that it doesn’t exist


Hussein Ibish: That’s just not true. I didn’t say it doesn’t exist.


Daniel Pipes: But I can cite you Pew polls. I can cite you Gallup polls I can site you poll after poll after poll that shows 20, 25%, and in some cases much more—so it’s a very powerful demographic and it needs to be discussed. It’s part of the religion.


Hussein Ibish: Yes, they prove what I said. Definitely not in the United States. You can find—of course, well that is fine, you could say, well, in the—let’s focus then in—if we’re teaching about the history of what Christians believe let’s focus on the Holocaust let’s focus on the Spanish Inquisition—lets focus on the conquest of the Americas, and all of this it is history.


Daniel Pipes: Indeed let’s do, let’s do, let’s do. That’s history.

Eric Shawn: We’re out of time.

Hussein Ibish: It’s history but it’s not religious belief that’s different.


Daniel Pipes: Unfortunately jihad is not just history. It is something that we are dealing with at this very moment. It is the greatest national security threat to the United States. So by all means study the Inquisition. By all means study the Holocaust. That’s not today’s problem.


Hussein Ibish: It’s fine to study these things as history. These things are history not religious belief.


Eric Shawn: Gentleman we’re up against the clock. You get a sense of the passions and deep interest in this issue on what’s in our children’s textbooks. Well Daniel Pipes and Hussein Ibish, I thank you both for joining us to talk about what’s in our children’s textbooks this morning here on the Fox News channel.



Teaching Islam
Textbooks and Religion in the Middle East

Edited by Eleanor Abdella Doumato and Gregory Starrett. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2006. 267 pp. $55.

Reviewed by Gilbert T. Sewall
American Textbook Council

Middle East Quarterly
Winter 2009


Teaching Islam is an impressive review of religious studies, history, and civics books used in schools in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, the Palestinian territories, Turkey, and Iran. The multi-authored volume contains important new reporting on the content of textbooks in the Middle East.


The book’s stated purpose is to respond to and disqualify “concerns that the content and character of official Middle Eastern programs are a danger both to local children and to international peace and security.” Unfortunately, the editors—Doumato, a visiting scholar at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies, and Starrett, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina—fail to address findings about Saudi Arabian textbooks raised in the 2005 report from Freedom House, Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Invade American Mosques.


The professors of anthropology, political science, and Middle Eastern Studies who have contributed to the volume do not make it clear what translations and instructional materials they have examined, and it is sometimes unclear whether they are working from original texts or relying on previous studies.

The editors stress significant differences among the books. As one might expect, textbooks in Turkey, Kuwait, and Oman present a different view of the world than those of Syria and Iran. The textbooks generally emphasize obedience, we learn, and they conceive of jihad as defense against Islam’s enemies. A master narrative of victimization is pervasive. Saudi Arabia “stands alone” in its strict belligerence, Doumato and Starrett assure us, and textbooks used in Islamic countries generally do not incite to violence.

Teaching Islam documents worrisome findings and then blithely dismisses them. Chapter titles such as “Iran: A Shiite Curriculum to Serve the Islamic State,” might give pause, as might overt anti-Jewish instruction found in Saudi, Jordanian, Syrian, and Egyptian texts. But Teaching Islam exudes ecumenicism. The volume’s foregone purpose seems to be to minimize any xenophobic and anti-liberal features of Islam apparent in social studies textbooks. Coeditor Starrett finds similar themes of good citizenship between what Arab children read in Islamic textbooks and what his son reads in the Weekly Reader. Yes, perhaps, but not exactly. Unlike the editors, this reviewer is alarmed by the book’s findings and equally alarmed that the authors do not reach the same conclusion.



Austrian Students Get Lessons in Hate

by David J. Rusin
Sat, 28 Feb 2009 at 11:26 AM

Charlotte Bronte cautioned that “prejudices … are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow there, firm as weeds among rocks.” But sometimes educators are the ones planting those prejudices.


The Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IRCA) — the sole legally recognized body that represents Muslim interests before the government and in which all Muslims automatically receive membership — has been providing Islamic education in public schools since 1982. Mouhanad Khorchide, a professor of sociology, recently published the first major study of this program, which has processed more than thirty thousand pupils. The disturbing results offer yet another warning to states about the groups they empower to speak on behalf of Muslims:

Khorchide, himself a Muslim, said 22.6 percent of the 210 Muslim teachers he had surveyed had “fanatical attitudes” and 21.9 percent rejected democracy as incompatible with Islam.

The older the teacher, Khorchide said, the more likely he was to reject the principle of the rule of law.

According to Vienna weekly Falter, the study shows 8.5 percent of the Muslim teachers said it was understandable for violence to be used to spread Islam, 28.4 percent said there was a contradiction in being both a Muslim and a European, and 44 percent said they had to make their students understand they were better than non-Muslims.

In addition, more than a third of the instructors lack pedagogical training and “most teachers of Islam before 1998 had been recruited in Arab countries or among Muslims living in Austria and many of them had been members of radical groups.” As for the predictable consequences of welcoming Islamists into the classroom, an example reminiscent of the Anschluss era emerged just one week later:

Social Democrat (SPÖ) Education Minister Claudia Schmied has banned a Muslim man from teaching his religion at a Vienna secondary school after he distributed anti-Semitic leaflets to pupils.


The leaflets contained a list of allegedly “Jewish” firms from which, the man told the students, they should not buy anything.

His removal — called an “overreaction” by the Muslim Teachers Association — is good news; so too is the announced agreement between the IRCA and the government to revamp Islamic education. But how many weeds already have taken root in young Muslim hearts?


According to all four recognized schools of Sunni jurisprudence, war against the infidel goes on in perpetuity — until “all chaos ceases, and all religion belongs to Allah” (Koran 8:39). In its entry on jihad, the definitive Encyclopaedia of Islam simply states:


The duty of the jihad exists as long as the universal domination of Islam has not been attained. Peace with non-Muslim nations is, therefore, a provisional state of affairs only; the chance of circumstances alone can justify it temporarily. Furthermore there can be no question of genuine peace treaties with these nations; only truces, whose duration ought not, in principle, to exceed ten years, are authorized. But even such truces are precarious, inasmuch as they can, before they expire, be repudiated unilaterally should it appear more profitable for Islam to resume the conflict.



Middle East Forum Alert



How U.S. textbooks treat the topic of Islam on Fox News.

By way of background, here are some of Mr. Pipes’ earlier writings on this topic:

Think like a Muslim[, Urges “Across the Centuries”]
‘Become a Muslim warrior’.”

He followed the former textbook’s trip through the courts in a blog:

Courts: Okay to Proselytize for Islam in California Schools.”

And he told the story of citizen activism vis-à-vis the History Alive! medieval textbook:

“History Alive!,” Scottsdale Schools, and a Reader’s Comment