March 11, 2009
Islam is very much in the news these days. Even before 9/11, Americans had become aware of a powerful presence that had never really gone away. The 45-year Cold War between the U.S. and the USSR seemed to submerge Islamic identity in an East-West struggle. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, a resurgent Islam often intruded into the headlines of Western newspapers. Even before the terror attacks on New York and Washington, Americans had been targeted by Islamist radicals for murder -at the World Trade Center in 1993, Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the U.S. Embassies in East Africa in 1998, and aboard the USS Cole in 2000. Then, however, we seemed to be in a decade-long "holiday from history."
It's normal to expect that American history and world history textbooks would take a few years to catch up with world events. Textbook production is not an overnight process. The headlines, however, don't wait. And the headlines all have some lessons to teach us about those regions where Islam predominates.
Here's lesson one: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met recently at Sharm-el-Sheikh, the Egyptian resort, with dozens of Arab leaders. She pledged U.S. monies to rebuild structures damaged in the recent Israeli incursion into Gaza. American taxpayers will be required to fork over $900 million to restore the homes and schools where local residents danced and handed out sweets to children to celebrate the attacks of 9/11. Mrs. Clinton assures us that the UN will carefully monitor where the funds go, to make sure that none of these monies get "into the wrong hands." For many of us who remember the UN's "Oil for Food" scandal, the UN's hands are the wrong hands. In this case, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has already designated a Syrian-based bank as a receiver of funds. Problem: the U.S.government has identified that Syrian bank as a money launderer for Hamas, the Gaza terrorist organization.
Lesson two: In The Washington Post, we recently read of a seven-year-old Kurdish girl 100 miles north of Baghdad whimpering as village women approach her. They hold her legs apart as a midwife uses a razor blade to cut off part of the little child's genitals. "I do this in the name of Allah," the midwife cries. The screaming little girl is hustled away to her home. "We don't know why we do it, but we will never stop because Islam and our elders require it," says the girl's mother. Tens of thousands of little girls are routinely so mutilated, The Post reports.
Lesson three: An Iranian freighter approaches the Chesapeake Bay, outside U.S. territorial waters. It launches a Shahab 3 missile with a nuclear warhead that explodes 300 miles above Des Moines, Iowa. The ship's crew of jihadist "martyrs" blows the ship up, leaving no trace of attackers. But the Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) created by the single nuclear weapon "fries" all the electronic circuits in North America, blacking out our communications, neutralizing our emergency response units, shutting down power grids, and throwing 300 million Americans back to the dawn of the industrial era. This is not a headline-yet. But it's what the Claremont Institute's Brian Kennedy writes could happen. It may be what Iran's Ahmadinejad means when he says he can foresee a world without the United States. It is to this man that our new President extends his open hand.
None of these lessons-continued U.S. subsidies to America-hating Palestinians, genital mutilation of tens of thousands of Muslim girls, or the threat of an attack from a nuclear Iran--are in our kids' textbooks. But the issues they describe have been with us for decades.
In a recent report by the American Textbook Council, educator Gil Sewall notes that textbook publishers have caved in to noisy lobbies that howl whenever painful facts are taught. Sewall's group says these Islamic organizations are succeeding in "adjusting the definitions of jihad and sharia or remove these words from lessons to avoid inconvenient truths that the editors fear activists will contest." In a public school system increasingly hostile to teaching about Christianity, the Teacher's Curriculum Institute of California includes this Muslim prayer from the Koran:
Recite-in the name of thy Lord!
Who created man from blood coagulated.
Recite! Thy Lord is wondrous kind,
Who by the pen has taught mankind things they knew not.
The Council's report on textbooks currently in classroom use charges that "the editorial caution that marks coverage of Christian and Jewish beliefs vanishes in presenting Islam's foundations." A Holt textbook extols Islam in glowing terms: "Helping and caring for others is important in Islam." Muhammed "taught equality," the text goes on.
Islam in the 700s does not conquer with fire and sword, according to these texts. Instead, it simply "sweeps" out of Arabia. With brooms?
More than 20 years ago, I was the liaison officer at the U.S. Department of Education for Dr. Paul Vitz. Dr. Vitz was an NYU psychologist whose careful study of basal readers and elementary social studies books showed that references to God and religion were being systematically "swept" away by American textbook publishers.
At the press conference at which Dr. Vitz presented his findings, many educators and reporters were skeptical of this study. But the curriculum coordinator for Montgomery County, Maryland Public Schools stood to say he agreed with Dr. Vitz' findings. And to counter that trend, his very liberal school district would make sure that all students had a chance to see the real impact of religion in our world: The youngsters would see the traveling exhibit of Suleiman the Magnificent. Suleiman was the Sultan, or emperor, of the Ottoman Turks! He was a Muslim ruler.
I thought of that day when I read about John Walker Lindh. He was captured in the opening days of the Afghanistan War in 2001. Lindh is serving a prison sentence as "the American Taliban."
In the mid-80s, Lindh would likely have been one of those elementary school children introduced to Suleiman's magnificence by his very politically correct Montgomery County educators. His family then lived in a trendy Washington suburb that local wags call "the People's Republic of Takoma Park."
We cannot prove that his public schooling made John Walker Lindh a jihadist, but fair questions should be asked: Based solely on what he learned in school, would this young man or any others learn why America should be loved? Why she deserves our loyalty? Why she deserves to be defended? Would they learn to question the truth claims of Islamists?
Once this was a particular problem for ultra-liberal enclaves like Montgomery County and California's "Marvelous Marin," but these textbooks show that the problem is nationwide. We are all indebted to Gil Sewall and the American Textbook Council for their courage and their commitment to the truth.