Here in Tennessee, the public battle over Islamic indoctrination in public schools rages on. Last month, I reported that parents in my home county were upset after their Middle School-age children were forced to recite the Shahada – the declaration that there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet. Following this revelation, my old colleagues at the American Center for Law and Justice filed open records requests with Tennessee school districts, demanding to see copies of policies, communications, and curriculum related to instruction in Islam and other world religions. Incredibly, several school districts flatly refused to comply with the request. And now my state representative, Sheila Butt, has introduced a bill that would ban the teaching of all “religious doctrine” in public schools until at least the tenth grade, a bill that CAIR says is rooted in “Islamophobic claims.”
My own take is relatively simple — while there is value in learning about world religions, including Islam, our politically correct public school establishment all too often simply can’t play it straight. It tends to favor Islam in a number of not-so-subtle ways. First — as my ACLJ colleagues note — public schools often portray Islamic beliefs as a matter of fact and Christian beliefs as a matter of faith. A public school should not be stating as fact Islamic assertions like ”the angel Gabriel told Mohammed that he was to be a prophet of Allah.”
Second, schools will often show exquisite sensitivity to the Islamic faith while focusing on the worst elements of Christian history — or ignoring Christian teachings and history altogether. In Tennessee, for example, parents claimed that schools were teaching their children the doctrines of Islam while neglecting Christianity — until a discussion of Christian persecution of other Christians in western Europe.
Third, some schools will even go to the extreme of asking students to “pretend” they’re Muslim, including by reciting Islamic prayers or performing Muslim rituals. Some teachers seem to view Muslim rituals as “cultural” rather than religious, and view immersion in Islamic practices as a cool multicultural experience rather than a violation of a student’s fundamental First Amendment rights.
In theory it shouldn’t be that difficult to teach the basics of world religions, but in American public education even the simple things can become intolerably difficult and intolerably politically correct. There is undeniable value in learning about Islam. There is no value, however, in whitewashing the Muslim world while denigrating or ignoring the Christian faith.