Under pressure from a well-funded Muslim education group, the nation’s public school textbooks increasingly present a politically correct portrait of Islam, according to a new report.
ACT for American Education, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of Islamic fundamentalism, said it found examples of historical revisionism in 38 of the most popular history textbooks used in public schools.
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ACT traced the new approach to Islam to a non-profit group that employs education consultants with links to political Islam, draws money from controversial donors, and has promoted glaring inaccuracies about the religion’s history.
The Institution on Religion and Civic Values—which recently changed its name from the Council on Islamic Education—is working to conduct a "bloodless" revolution in the school system according to founder Shabbir Mansuri.
One of the IRCV’s former leading scholars has been associated with groups that have raised questions in the past for their ties to radicalism.
Susan Douglass, who served as IRCV’s curriculum specialist for more than 10 years, taught social studies at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, Va., a school funded by Saudi Arabia. The class of 1999’s valedictorian was convicted of plotting to assassinate former President George W. Bush in 2005.
At the time, liberal Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) questioned whether the school is "another example of the Saudi government turning a blind eye to terrorism."
"I hope that the ISA is not another madrassa in the United States," he said.
Douglass has also worked for an Islamic think tank—the International Institute of Islamic Thought—that was raided by federal officials in 2002. The group was founded with the backing of former Muslim Brotherhood members in the 1980s and had financial ties to anti-Israel terrorist groups in the early 2000s.
Douglass now works as an education consultant at Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, which was renamed in 2005 after Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal donated $20 million to the center.
She did not return calls for comment.
One of the IRCV’s patrons, California defense contractor Rahim Sabadia, has funneled millions to Islamic organizations in the U.S.
Sabadia sent more than $300,000 to IRCV from 2008 to 2010, according to documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. He also pumped more than $300,000 to the radical Council on American Islamic Relations during that same time period, and gave a $300,000 check to the left-wing Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors in 2009.
His wife, Nafees El Batool, contributed nearly $60,000 to the Democratic National Senatorial Committee in the 2006 and 2008 cycles. Sabadia has split his six figure political donations evenly between both parties.
Sabadia did not return calls for comment.
The six figure donations are aimed at pushing an agenda, rather than good scholarship, according to ACT executive director Guy Rodgers. He said textbook companies are eager to turn to groups like the IRCV in order to avoid accusations of racism.
"The IRCV gives a faulty picture, a rosy picture of Islam," he said. "The textbooks are responding to this politically correct concern that we’re being intolerant to Muslims—they’re rewriting history to suit those concerns."
IRCV has consulted for dozens of textbooks and instructed thousands of teachers since 2000. Mansuri, who did not return calls for comment, said he founded the group because, "The U.S., like any other nation, is part of the global community. We need to know about each other."
But the type of information IRCV has provided to textbook companies sheds an overly positive light on Islam, according to ACT.
For example, the group played a major role consulting on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s 2003 history book, Across the Centuries.
In the textbook, ancient Islam is depicted in a very progressive manner: as tolerant of non-Muslims, in favor of equal rights for women, and unwilling participants in the fight for Jerusalem and the resulting Crusades.
The textbook featured many of the talking points forwarded by IRCV, including the assertion that "under Islam, Jews and Christians had full religious freedom. They built churches and synagogues, and several were financed by the state."
The book failed to mention the scholarship of acclaimed Johns Hopkins University professor Majid Khadduri, who founded the school’s Middle East Studies Program. The Iraqi-born Khadduri combatted the revisionism embraced by many Muslim scholars, pointing out that Muslims barred the creation of new churches, taxed non-believers, branded them with yellow badges, and barred them from testifying in court.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt stands by the book, as well as the publisher’s relationship with Mansuri, according to company spokesman Josef Blumenfeld.
"We have 180 years of trusted content and we vet that content to other organizations because standards change and perceptions change," he said. "[IRCV] helped, but we reach out to a lot of different interested parties to get their input."
Guidelines that have since been scrubbed from the IRCV site stated that the group would not work with textbook makers for academic review "unless a substantial and substantive revision is planned by the publisher." Although the policies prohibit textbook endorsements, the policies also said IRCV would promote textbooks that embraced its message.
"IRCV may on occasion recommend textbooks that contain balanced coverage of Islam and Muslim history," the policies read.
IRCV’s relationship with HMH ended in 2003. Blumenfeld could not comment on the nature of the split, but dismissed the notion that HMH bowed to any kind of pressure from the Islamic group.
"We’d never give anyone veto power over our work," he said.
Rodgers pointed to the treatment of the term jihad, often cited by Islamists as the driving force behind the 9/11 attacks and terrorist groups such as al Qaeda. The term is defined simply as a personal spiritual struggle in many leading textbooks.
"The most respected and authoritative collection of hadith contains 199 references to jihad, and every one uses the term to mean warfare against infidels," according to the ACT report.
Blumenfeld said ACT is wasting its time.
"Anyone who says (textbooks are pro-Islam) is just looking to make a name for themselves and should focus on doing something more productive," he said.
Rodgers, a former public school teacher, said the revisions "skew" a student’s ability to put the realities of Islamic terrorism in the proper context.
"What teachers do and what textbooks do has a big influence on young people," he said. "You see kids who grew up in the post-9/11 era who don’t know what jihad is. How can we understand our enemy in the War on Terror if we are fed historical revisionism?"
"That’s not just an educational problem—that’s a national security problem."