Review criticizes secondary textbooks' take on Middle East, Islam

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Middle and high school history textbooks generally paint a positive or benign picture of Islam that tends to clash with confrontational images students might see or read in the news, according to a review by the American Textbook Council, financed, in part, by the Searle Freedom Foundation, the Achelis Foundation, and the Stuart Family Foundation.

Nearly seven years after the 9/11 attacks highlighted the need for Americans to learn more about the Middle East and Islam, there is more content in the subject, but publishers continue to fail in giving key topics careful and complete treatment, the review concludes."Deficiencies about Islam in textbooks copyrighted before 2001 persist [in newly published texts] and in some cases have grown worse," the report says."Biases persist. Silences are profound and intentional."

The review compares content in the secondary school texts with accounts by scholars in what it terms"authoritative histories" of Islam. The texts, for example, describe jihad, generally translated as"holy war," as a sacred struggle for justice. Coverage of the Crusades, the review says, paints Christians solely as"violent attackers" and Muslims as victims. Moreover, it says, students don't learn about modern aggression among Muslim groups, such as the Taliban, or the power struggles between Sunni and Shia sects in Iraq.

The review suggests that groups such as the Council on Islamic Education have exerted too much influence on the textbook-adoption process, pressuring state review committees to incorporate"doctored" versions of history.

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