Texas State Board of Education Passes New Textbook Standards
The Center for Islamic Pluralism congratulates the Texas State Board of Education for its courageous and farsighted vote to adopt new standards for textbook content that include proper attention to fundamentalist Islam and its relationship to terrorism.
The new standards were passed by the Texas SBOE today in a 9-5 vote.
A press release from the Texas SBOE may be found at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index4.aspx?id=2147484354.
An article by CIP Executive Director Stephen Suleyman Schwartz describing the background and substance of the new standards is accessible here: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/017/274numfk.asp and here: http://www.islamicpluralism.org/1423/what-johnny-needs-to-learn-about-islam.
On the first day of the hearings that resulted in the affirmative vote, May 19, Schwartz presented testimony to the SBOE. CIP was the only explicitly Muslim group to appear before the board.
Schwartz's testimony follows, very slightly edited:
"The following comments are submitted by Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, Executive Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism (CIP), headquartered in Washington, DC, to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), following a review of treatment of the religion of Islam in the new TEA Standards for World History.
"The Center for Islamic Pluralism supports the revisions so far discussed by the Texas Education Agency, particularly with regard to fundamentalist Islamist ideology and its relationship to terrorism. CIP and its members agree with the sense of the revisions, which is that American students of world history need to be educated in the global danger of extremist Islam, the specific character of radical Islamist attacks on the United States and the West in general, and the principles and motives guiding the United States in combating radical Islamist terrorism around the world.
"CIP particularly applauds the adoption of §113.42, World History Studies, (c) (14), which establishes a direct link between Muslim fundamentalist ideology and terrorism, to wit,
"History. The student understands the development of radical Islamic fundamentalism and the subsequent use of terrorism by some of its adherents. The student is expected to:
(A) summarize the development and impact of radical Islamic fundamentalism on events in the second half of the 20th century, including Palestinian terrorism and the growth of al Qaeda;
(B) explain the U.S. response to terrorism from September 11, 2001, to the present."
"In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 2001, CIP has expressed special concern about the presentation of Islamic issues, and particularly of radical Islam, in textbooks adopted for American public schools. For this reason, in 2009 CIP inaugurated a Textbook Review to evaluate what and how American youth are taught about radical Islam and its threat to American values and institutions.
"CIP has observed three especially disturbing phenomena in public education:
"a. In some textbooks, radical Islam has been presented according to a "pre-9/11 mindset" in which multiculturalism or "political correctness" dictates either neutrality toward radical Islam or a tendency to blame the West for the ills of the Muslim world.
"b. In some textbooks a marked bias in favor of radical interpretations of Islam is presented normatively; that is, Islam is described according to the ideology of radicals rather than the theology of moderates or the scholarship of reputable non-Muslim experts.
"c. In the process of formulating textbook standards, frameworks, and content, radical Islamist groups in the U.S. and abroad have intervened to insert or support material inappropriate for American students, while exercising various kinds of financial, political, and other pressure on school authorities and textbook publishers to assure that material on Islam conforms to radical ideology.
"To counter these negative aspects of current textbook production, CIP supports approval of the new History standards by the Texas Education Agency."
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I. The Center for Islamic Pluralism (CIP) is a public-interest organization founded in 2004 by moderate American and Canadian Muslims, including authors, academics, clerics, journalists, and community activists, to advance the interests of a pro-democratic and anti-radical expression of the faith of Islam.
II. Definition of "Moderate Islam" by CIP and CIP's Standing as Commentator on Textbook Standards
CIP defines "moderate Islam" as a religious interpretation based on the traditional guidance of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who taught that Muslims living in non-Muslim societies must strictly obey the laws and customs of the countries in which they live. CIP, through public information, organizational efforts, and similar activities, opposes jihadism and other extremist ideologies that present themselves as interpretations of Islam. CIP members include followers of the main Islamic sects, Sunnism and Shiism, as well as the spiritual form of Islam known as Sufism. CIP is loyal to American and other national institutions in non-Muslim societies and has advised and otherwise cooperated with U.S. government authorities in combating terrorism.
II.a. CIP maintains a website [www.islamicpluralism.org] and publishes books and papers, as well as articles, while also participating in media interviews and briefings to advance its agenda.
II.b. The President of CIP is Professor Kemal Silay of Indiana University, Bloomington, the leading specialist in Western academia on Turkish culture.
II.c. The Executive Director of CIP, Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, is an author of trade books and contributor to standard supplemental schoolbooks on Islam, as well as a journalist and otherwise public intellectual.\
II.d. CIP cooperates actively with Jewish, Evangelical Christian, Catholic, and other religious communities to promote American values of mutual respect and equality.
II.e. CIP receives no foreign contributions and is affiliated with no foreign governments, although it maintains cooperative relationships with universities, religious faculties, and libraries in both non-Muslim and Muslim countries.
II.f. CIP is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt public charity. Contributions to CIP are deductible under section 170 of the Internal Revenue Code. CIP is qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers, and gifts under sections 2055, 2106, or 2622 of the tax code. CIP files IRS form 990 annually.
III. CIP Affirmations
IIIa. We believe the problems of Muslims are products of historical circumstances within Muslim society, not of Western action, and should be taught to American students as such.
IIIb. We believe Islam should be presented to American students with inclusion of the convictions of moderate Muslims, recognition of the diversity of Muslim opinion, and recourse to the works of reputable non-Muslim experts.
IIIc. We believe the origins of Islam should be presented to American students as a set of religious beliefs, not as a narrative of presumed fact.
IIId. We oppose role-playing or other "pretend-Muslim" exercises or activities being prescribed for non-Muslim students. Similarly, we would oppose "pretend-Christian" or other religious role-playing activities being prescribed for Muslim students. Aside from legitimate public school teaching about religion, faith should be a matter of personal conscience and choice.
IIIe. We oppose the intrusion of any foreign-inspired, foreign-subsidized, or similar body in the process of formulating textbook content on religion for American students.
IIIf. We support an American and Canadian Islam that fully embodies American and Canadian principles.\
IIIg. Above all, we affirm that the crisis beginning with 9/11 requires that American students receive clear, accurate, transparent, and empowering information on Islam, rather than Islamist ideological propaganda.
IIIh. We do not suspect or accuse American public school institutions of fomenting anti-Muslim prejudices or attitudes.
Attachments: Stephen Schwartz, "What Johnny Needs to Learn About Islam," The Weekly Standard, Washington, DC, December 7, 2009 [http://www.islamicpluralism.org/1423/what-johnny-needs-to-learn-about-islam].
Stephen Schwartz, "CAIR Attacks American Educational Book Series," The Weekly Standard Blog, Washington, DC, March 24, 2010 [http://www.islamicpluralism.org/1503/cair-attacks-american-educational-book-series]