Byline: Larry Witham, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
World history textbooks in U.S. classrooms sanitize the problems of Islam when compared to how they often treat Western civilization, a review of seven widely used texts reported yesterday.
The study, released by the American Textbook Council, said a rosy treatment of Islam may arise from the lobbying of the Council on Islamic Education on national publishers.
"When any dark side [of Islam] surfaces, textbooks run and hide," said the report, "Islam and the Textbooks," by Gilbert Sewall, a former professor who directs the council.
"Subjects such as jihad and the advocacy of violence among militant Islamists to attain worldly ends, the imposition of [Shariah] law, the record of Muslim enslavement, and the brutal subjection of women are glossed over," the 35-page study says.
This contrasts, the report suggested, with the candor in textbooks over such events of Western history as the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, imperialism, Christian fundamentalism and women's suffrage.
Without solid facts about Islam, the study said, "instructors fall back on themes of tolerance and apology [and] skirt the reality of international affairs and threats to world peace."
Many topics in history textbooks are reduced to a few paragraphs and require elaboration by teachers or supplementary materials. But Islam is so exotic that a few textbook sentences can have an inordinate impact, Mr. Sewall said in an interview.
"Few teachers are comfortable with the subject," he said. "They are generally ignorant of Islam, so they depend on the textbooks for guidance."
The textbook council, formed in 1988 in New York as an independent group researching social studies and history texts, advocates factual knowledge and appreciation of Western values.
It began a review of world history textbooks in 2001, but issued this "preliminary report" on Islam's treatment because of its importance for students in an age of terrorism and new global tensions.
Shabbir Mansuri, founding director of the Council on Islamic Education, yesterday was sent a portion of the report. Other than describing the textbook council as "a conservative group," he had no comment.
The Council on Islamic Education, formed in Orange County, Calif., in 1989, has sent publishers guidelines and definitions for words for the textbook treatments and protests if texts offend Muslim sensibilities, the new report said.
"For more than a decade, history-textbook editors have done the Council's bidding, and as a result, history textbooks accommodate Islam on terms that Islamists demand," the report said. …