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Texas board looks to ban ‘pro-Islamic bias’ from school books

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, September 21, 2010 19:11 EDT
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Led by a conservative majority, the Texas Board of Education is stepping into the national media furor over a rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States, gearing up to vote later this week on whether or not “pro-Islamic bias” should be banned from school books.

Granted, there’s not any previously existing “pro-Islamic bias” in Texas texts, nor are there any Muslims on the board of education, let alone in the state’s government.

“But the possibility that could happen is a concern for conservative activist Randy Rives. He ran unsuccessfully for State Board of Education this year,” reporter Nathan Bernier explained in a recent audio segment for KUT, Austin’s public radio station.

“Rives wrote a resolution that was put on the State Board of Education agenda this week by some socially conservative members of the board.

“‘There’s a lot of people that think that, and I think rightfully so, that the key to terrorism comes from this jihad philosophy,’ Rives said. ‘We want to make sure there’s not something in our textbooks to influence our young people’s minds that takes them toward a path we don’t want them to go,’ he said. When asked specifically whether he meant jihad, Rives answered, ‘Yes.’”

The board’s director, Don McLeroy, told Houston news station KHOU that he too is worried Texas history books carry an anti-Christian bent.

“It’s that great idea, that radical idea of Judeo-Christianity, that man is created in the image of God,” he reportedly said. “So if you have world history books that downplay Christianity – Judeo-Christianity – and it doesn’t even make it in the table of contents, I think there’s a great concern.”

The resolution before McLeroy’s board claims there are more lines dedicated to Islam than Christianity in a particular text that has not been used since 2003. Members specifically cite instances where Christians embarking on the crusades were described as “invaders” and “attackers.”

This is of course true, considering that the crusades, between the 11th century and the 15th century, were wars of aggression waged by European Christians.

But that’s not stopping the conservative Texas Board of Education from pushing ahead with their resolution — and this is certainly not the first time they’ve made headlines.

Last summer, Gov. Rick Perry appointed Gail Lowe, a newspaper editor and avowed creationist, to head the board. Lowe had earlier said that “biology textbooks which do not teach both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of the theory of evolution must be rejected by the board.”

“Some board members and the non-expert ideologues they appointed to a review panel have made it clear that they want students to learn that the founding fathers intended America to be an explicitly Christian nation with laws based on their own narrow interpretations of the Bible,” the AP quoted Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network.

Among the more controversial conservative appointees to the state’s curriculum committees was Bill Ames, a former IBM executive who late last year penned an article entitled “The Left’s War on US History,” in which he accuses other members of the State Board of Education of being planted in their positions by liberal groups.

Earlier this year, they succeeded in passing a series of modifications to the state’s texts. Alterations include elevating the significance of Christianity in the nation’s founding, minimizing the importance of Thomas Jefferson and his framework for separation of church and state and the impact of the Kennedy family on US politics, emphasizing “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s,” diminishing the scope of Latino history, and redefining slavery in more pleasant terms.

The latest resolution, which has confused some of the state’s political observers because it does not appear to actually do anything, is “misleading” and “filled with errors,” according to the board’s critics.

“It seems obvious that this board seized upon the highly politicized debate that’s going on in the nation and used it to promote their views,” Miller told KUT.

This video is from KHOU 11 in Houston, Texas, broadcast Sept. 20, 2010.

With additional reporting by RAW STORY.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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