Texas ditches 'pro-Islam' books
Chicago - The Texas board of education voted Friday to to reject any textbooks which paint Islam in too favorable of a light, vowing to curtail what it sees as a "pro-Islam/anti-Christian" bias in school books.
The move comes months after the socially-conservative board enacted new social studies standards which championed capitalism and Republican party values and questioned whether the country was truly founded on the separation of church and state.
Texas is the largest textbook market in the United States and its rules influence what children across the country will learn at school.
The resolution adopted on Friday cites "politically-correct whitewashes of Islamic culture and stigmas on Christian civilization" in current textbooks and warns that "more such discriminatory treatment of religion may occur as Middle Easterners buy into the US public school textbook oligopoly."
It vowed to reject any future textbooks which devote more space to teaching about Islam than Christianity, include "sanitized definitions of 'jihad,'" or display bias by describing Christian crusaders as "invaders" when Muslim "conquest" is called "migration" by "empire builders."
Critics said the resolution, which passed 7-6, was a further attempt to politicize education and was based on false claims.
"It is hard not to conclude that the members who voted for this resolution were solely interested in playing on fear and bigotry in order to pit Christians against Muslims," said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, which aims to counter the religious right and protect individual liberties.
The move comes amid a rise of anti-Islamic rhetoric in parts of the United States which has sparked violent protests and riots around the world.
An obscure Florida pastor sparked widespread outrage after he vowed to burn hundreds of Korans on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
While he eventually recanted, US officials said the nation's reputation had been significantly damaged.
The nation has also been embroiled in a politically-charged debate over the establishment of an Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York, one of the sites of the 2001 attacks.
The resolution was slammed by its opponents on the board during a contentious meeting, the paper reported on its website.
"This makes us look cuckoo. It's crazy," said board member Rick Agosto. "We are allowing ourselves to be distracted by this narrow-minded resolution, which is itself biased. We should have taken the higher ground on this."
Board member Lawrence Allen, a practicing Muslim, called the language in the resolution "offensive."
"These are baseless accusations, and this resolution is unfair," he was quoted as saying.
The resolution sends a warning to publishers, but does not alter current standards which are not up for review for several years.
"This resolution will ensure upfront that potential biases are taken care of before these books reach the board," the Dallas Morning News quoted chairperson Gail Lowe as saying.