Texas school board debates ‘pro-Islamic’ bias in textbooks
Members weigh demanding changes in way books portray Muslims, Christians
It appeared that Texas had finished battling over textbooks — with social conservatives winning a clear victory in May — but the Texas State Board of Education is taking up another explosive curriculum question: Are Texan youth being fed a sugar-coated version of Islam while Christianity is unfairly taken to task for its sins?
At a three-day meeting that started Wednesday, the board is scheduled to consider a resolution that would require it to reject textbooks that it determines are tainted with teaching “pro-Islamic, anti-Christian half-truths and selective disinformation,” a bias that it argues is reflected in current schoolbooks.
“I think our documentation clearly shows that the bias is there,” said Randy Rives of Odessa, who drafted the resolution. “And we feel that it was not done on accident.”
The discussion comes as Americans’ distrust of Islam is on the rise, possibly as a result of a bitter controversy over the proposed construction of a mosque near “Ground Zero” of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York City. A national poll released earlier this week by the Angus Reid polling firm found that a narrow majority of Americans holds a generally unfavorable opinion of Islam, with 45 percent saying it is a religion that encourages violence. By contrast, only one American in 10 believes that either Christianity or Judaism “encourages violence,” the poll found.
While proponents of the Texas textbook resolution insist that they merely want to provide balance, charges of Islamophobia are already being leveled.
The Texas Freedom Network, a liberal religion and education watchdog group, did a point-by-point analysis and rebuttal of the resolution, which it described as “ill considered” and “filled with superficial, misleading and half-baked claims designed simply to promote fear and religious prejudice.”