Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, July 2011
Fanatic Tea Party Supporters in Prince William County, Virginia, Want to Change Textbook Because it Gives an Objective View of Islam
Tea Party Says Textbook Is Pro-Islam
The Prince William County Tea Party Patriots sent out a recent email claiming bias toward Islam in Virginia school textbooks.
This is the first of two articles about the Prince William County Tea Party’s concern about the accuracy and fairness of Virginia school textbooks. The second article will run Friday.
While the Prince William County Tea Party raises concerns about a school textbook it says has a “Pro-Islamic bias,” a local Muslim leader says criticism of Islam comes mostly from people who don’t know enough about it.
The Tea Party’s accusations were included in an email sent to a distribution list on July 7 to promote a forum for female candidates for elected positions who line up with the Tea Party values. The email claims that a Virginia school textbook “favor(s) Islam in secular schools, revises history and obscures Sharia law including the treatment of non-muslims.”
The email cites one textbook on Ancient World History that has 22 pages for the Islam section, compared to eight pages on the origins of Judaism and six pages on early Christianity. The email also takes issue with several of the book’s statements about Islam and Sharia law, claiming the author revises history to present Islam in a better light.
Prince William County Tea Party Patriots Chairwoman Nancy Schiffman and her husband, Yale, who wrote the email, said the content of the email came from a group called Act for America and was intended to convince people to request a review of Virginia textbooks, not as an attack on the Muslim community.
“I never considered that this was an attack on the Islamic community,” Yale Schiffman said. “It was simply an examination of a specific textbook and a question of a lack of balance in the textbook. If people want to dispute what we said about that particular textbook, we’re certainly open to hearing what they’re presenting. But an attack on Islam, I don’t think so.”
Muslim Association of Virginia President Mohammed Mehboob said the email did not represent an attack on Muslims, but he dismissed the idea that textbooks are biased toward Islam. “I don’t know why the school board would favor Islam, and we would not want them to,” he said.
“Who are the people sitting on the school board? They’re Americans, and they have a good sense of responsibility,” Mehboob said. “They would not favor one group versus another.”
Mehboob declined to comment on the specifics of the questions regarding Sharia law, but said fears about Sharia are unfounded and misplaced. “We are all Americans and it is American law that we follow,” he said. “I follow Islamic tradition, but that’s for me. It’s not to be put on anyone else.”
The Schiffmans said they are aware that other textbooks are used besides the one critiqued in the email, and they are trying to get volunteers to review Virginia textbooks and make recommendations to the Board of Education. Part of the purpose of the Women Candidates Program is to promote candidates who will present the Tea Party’s perspective of government officials and “deal with a variety of issues that undermine the Judeo-Christian principles that our country was founded on,” according to the email.
Nancy Schiffman said the Tea Party is concerned that school children will get an unbalanced perspective. “We want to see these topics taught in a responsible way so that our children are getting both sides of the issue,” she said.
“We want them to be open to all types of thought without having any one predominate over the other,” Schiffman added. “It’s not only Christianity, there are many, many religions in the world.”
“We should be looking at Buddhism, Hinduism, they all have a value system that is worth looking at and studying,” Schiffman said.
The Schiffmans said they do not believe the Board of Education is intentionally promoting Islam above other religions, but that it is a matter of what textbooks are available. “A lot of what the Board of Education does is to focus on the budget and how to make it balanced, and they may not be getting into the nitty gritty of reviewing the textbooks,” Nancy Schiffman said.
A Virginia Department of Education spokesman said that the rules for approving textbooks have recently changed to reflect a greater emphasis on accuracy. The state Department of Education responds to the Tea Party’s concerns in the second and final part of this series that will run Friday.
People who oppose Islam, Mehboob said, simply are not educated enough about it. “The only people who have problems are those who do not know what Islam is,” he said. “It’s basically the same religion as the Jews and Christians follow. One God, worthy of worship.”
Mehboob said that he does not think the Tea Party is against Muslims. He met recently with Tea Party outreach member Kevin McCarthy. “We had such a wonderful time together,” Mehboob said.
Political rhetoric, Mehboob said, can lead people to overstate their case. “When people are trying to promote personalities, sometimes they go a little too far,” he said. “It’s called rhetoric. They’re trying to make their event successful.”
To read the full email from the Prince William County Tea Party Patriots, see the attached PDF file.
Fair Use Notice
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah & ccun.org.
firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com