LECTURES ABOUT WHAT Buddhists believe and how their faith spread to China, Burma, and beyond whizzed past my unlistening ears. A bad student, I dozed through discussions about what Martin Luther nailed to the door of All Saints’ Church and why he had a beef with the Catholic Church. My thirst for learning (and love of religious freedom) finally perked up during lessons about Nazi Germany and what it was that they never learned about the Jewish faith and people.

But there was never a whisper about Islam. No discussion of the Ottoman Empire, or the Golden Age of Islamic learning and discovery, not a Muhammad in sight.

That was high school back in the 90s. Back in those days chapters about Islam, the Muslims, and Islamic civilizations were put on the chopping block in world history.

In recent years since the tragedy of 9/11 and the scourge of ISIS, Islam and the Muslims are increasingly coming under the microscope in world news and politics. No longer can we, as a society, brush off chapters on such an apropos subject. And so, Islamic Civilization has started to make an appearance in school curriculum.

But some parents are enraged about this religion being a part of their children’s history text. Fueled by myth, fear, and anger, parents across the country are saying no to Islamic knowledge for their children. One example is that of a Florida mother who has vowed to stop her children from learning history if that history has anything to do with Muslims. (Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Znvj4piw_M )

This Florida mom, Christian Normandin, is like a growing number of parents. She is mad. And just a few seconds into her video about the “evils” of teaching students about Islam, you can understand why. It’s because she has been served a heaping helping of misinformation about Islam which understandably breeds fear.

It becomes clear a few minutes into the young mother’s video that she has fallen prey to media sensationalism and fear mongering. She cannot put her finger on anything in specific that she knows about Islam, but cites what she has heard, alluding to media reports of Muslim extremists’ misdeeds.

What she and most non-Muslims don’t realize is that Prophet Muhammad taught his followers to avoid extremism. The Prophet ﷺ said:

Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists … (Bukhâri)

But unfortunately she, like many Americans and Westerners at large, fails to realize that the misdeeds of a few do not define the many.

Normandin gets so much wrong about Islam it is heart breaking. You almost want to jump into the video to hug her, make her a nice cup of coffee, and sit down and explain it all to her.

In her 15 minute video, this concerned parent holds up what she sees as the offending historical textbook that her son must learn from, and she misreads most of it. The most appalling reading comprehension misstep is that she confuses pre-Islamic burial of daughters and ill-treatment of women with Islam.

As Allah says in the Quran:

And when the girl [who was] buried alive is asked for what sin she was killed. [Sûrat Al-Takwîr, 81:8-9]

And the Prophet ﷺ said:

Whoever has three daughters or three sisters, or two daughters or two sisters, and he keeps good company with them and fears Allah regarding them, then Paradise is for him. (Tirmidhi)

The textbook is conveying that these pre-Islamic practices of female infanticide and bad treatment of women are grave sins in Islam. But it is almost as if the misconceptions she holds to be true are obscuring the vision of an otherwise competent individual.

Normandin even goes as far as to fear Arabic numerals. Pointing to a page that shows how the Arabic numerals are written, she says, “It even has the origin of ‘Ay-rabic’ numerals. […] And it shows you actually how to write ’em.” Arabic numerals are in fact our numerical system here in the U. S. of A. But it is truly sad that she fears her son learning numbers simply because they were developed through the Islamic Empire.

She continues her outrage because it seems that the textbook is not teaching some other history of Islam that she knows to be “more true.” But she can’t seem to bring any evidence to bear in her video. She says, “They don’t talk about the negative sides of, you know, Islam or Muslim.” Perhaps she is referring to what she has heard about the misdeeds of Muslims, an entirely different thing than what Islam is or what Islamic History is.

She is not alone in her protest, ignorance, and fear. The issue is an emotional one and growing in popularity. I get it. Parents are trying to protect their children from what they perceive as dangerous. But the irony is that maybe if this subject matter had been covered when these parents were in school, they wouldn’t be so scared of it being taught to their children.

What’s more is that these parents don’t seem to grasp the not so subtle distinction between teaching what other people believe and forcing religious indoctrination. We all learned about Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and so on in world history class. It is just the way the world works. Religion is a powerful force and moves people to do, and build, and fight and, well … make history. Islam and the Muslims have played a huge part in world history.

Teaching children about world religions in world history class is just a necessity. Imagine trying to teach a class about the Reformation and leaving out Henry VIII challenging papal authority and the Catholic Church. It would be eerily like 1984.

But we never hear one parent being outraged about how their Catholic children are learning about The Church of England. And why not? Well, there are two reasons. Firstly, because Islam is the new boogeyman, and fear of it is being fueled by the extremists, the Islamophobes, and the media’s soap opera-esque love affair with them both. And secondly, because learning about people, their beliefs, and the historical events that took place around them is not indoctrination. Parents understand this when it comes to any other faith but Islam.

To use a high school writing tool, the Merriam-Webster dictionary, we find that “to indoctrinate” is defined as “to teach (someone) to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs.”

Indoctrination is not what is happening in these public schools. Teachers are not teaching students to believe in Islam nor are they teaching them to follow the Prophet Muhammad. They are just teaching historical fact.

Indoctrination is not even a part of the Islamic approach of inviting people to understand the teachings of Islam. Allah says in the Quran:

But if they turn away, your duty is only to preach the clear Message. [Sûrat Al-Naḥl,  16:82]

More than learning how history works and the difference between learning something and being indoctrinated, these non-Muslims parents need to understand that learning about Islamic history, peoples, and practices will help the next generation of world leaders move toward a more peaceful world. The reality is that children will need an understanding of all peoples, cultures, and religions if they hope to successfully navigate the business world. The truth is that learning about other peoples and systems of belief teaches much needed open mindedness in this diverse world.

But non-Muslim parents aren’t the only ones who need to do a little growing. Muslims have a responsibility here as well. The media has shown these non-Muslim parents enough of the un-Islamic practices done by extremists to drive them to this point.

We have a duty to these parents, to their children, to reach out and show them that the majority of Muslims aren’t monsters, extremists, or even their enemy, and that Islam is not evil. Allah tells us in the Quran:

And speak to people good [words]. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:83]

We owe it to our fellow countrymen and women, to our fellow human beings, to show them what Islam is through good manners and kindness. It’s well past time to reach out and clear the air.

 

islamwich@yahoo.com'

Theresa Corbin

Theresa Corbin is a New Orleans native who came to Islam in 2001 after many years of soul searching and religious study. She is a freelance writer and public speaker who focuses on women's issues, conversion, the ridiculousness of stereotypes, and bridging the ever widening gap between peoples in the human family. Corbin holds a bachelor's in English Lit from the University of South Alabama and has a black belt in baking. Visit her blog, islamwich.com, where she and her contributors discuss all things American and Islamic.

3 Comments

  • Joanna Harvey

    Joanna Harvey

    Tue 7 Rajab 1438AH 4-4-2017AD - 2:58 pm

    As a Christian and a homeschooler, I see a lot of overreactions to teaching about Islam in public schools.

    In my home, with my own children, I teach about Islam and other religions. How can I expect them to understand history, the arts, current events, mathematics, architecture, astronomy, etc., if I leave out Islam?

  • Ren Alhmd

    Ren Alhmd

    Wed 8 Rajab 1438AH 5-4-2017AD - 1:01 am

    We learned a little about every major religion in my history class in Jr high (97/98). None of us cared. We had homework on them, including Islam and Muslims. Our parents had to sign our homework. They didn’t care. We​ even had a day where relatives of students from each religion came to class and talked to us about their faith – including a Muslim in a kufi cap. Again, nobody cared. I live in a mostly Catholic City in California. This is definitely a recent phenomenon.

  • info@londonschoolofislamics.org.uk'

    Iftikhar Ahmad

    Tue 25 Dhul Qidah 1439AH 7-8-2018AD - 11:39 am

    I believe that Islam is culturally superior or even culturally equal to the ideas of the Western Enlightenment. The Western Enlightenment was in large part a reaction against orthodox Christianity; but go back to the era of Harun al-Rashid (766-809) and Baghdad would have been a far better place to live than Rome or Paris or in any western country.

    To all the haters in this world, if you want to know more about Islam read about Prophet Mohammad peace be upon Him and his household. Don’t depend everything on what you hear from people and especially media, because nothing’s easier than spreading out rumours. Yes I am a Muslim lady, but I have Christians friends, Jewish friends, Buddhist friends.. so we’re not anti-social and bullies… and Thank God we respect everyone because that’s what the Holy Quran tells us to do :) Here’s the story Mohammad PBUH is just a messenger not an inventor. Allah almighty sent Mohammad to make him introduce Islam to the people. Don’t insult Islam, normal Muslims like me don’t sit & talk to insult the other religions or the other people. This is wrong! Islam respects the other religions or EVEN people who don’t believe in anything.

    Before accusing all Muslims as terrorists, make sure you civilize yourself with true facts. Do not depend on media and rumours… You are all blinded with stereotypes.. so in other words, you are all ignorant ! Thank God our religion taught us how to respect peoples religion and opinions. Whatever you say reflects who you follow.. so thanks for proving us right :)

    Do you guys have ever read the history of Ustmaniyah Kingdom in turkey before the WW1? if u guys see the real history of Ustmaniyah kingdom, you will agree with all of his points. cuz the in that kingdom, they are not only Muslims, but also Christians and Jews and they were living in peace. UNTIL the world sees it as a threat to the world (bcuz of course they could getting bigger and bigger) they interrupted them and mixed them with politics. just saying though. if u r not convinced, read history

    ISLAM and Quran is against terrorist. Prophet Muhammed was driven from his city and moved to another city while being chased by non Muslims
    who hated him for preaching his religion, when he came to settle in another city, the enemies wanted to invade and kill him, that’s the only reason why him and his army fought, to protect themselves

    Spousal abuse is not just a Muslim issue, you know how many of your fellow white, non Muslim British men assault and abuse their wives? With their drinking levels it happens at an astonishingly high rate. Does it concern you?

    West must learn to respect and tolerate those who are different. Islam is Islam and it in nothing to do with extremism. The meaning of Muslim is Submit to will of God. The reason why i keep banging on about the same thing (maybe I’m not explaining it properly) about Capitalism, racism, Crime etc the world would definitely be a better place for guaranteed. Interest is strictly forbidden, excess spending is forbidden, racism is forbidden, looking after your family, neighbours, orphans, the poor are obligatory. We get these teachings from the Quran but the way to implement was shown through Prophet Muhammad. Think about it a society without alcohol, adultery, murder, stealing would definitely be a better place. The punishment is severe and there for a reason. You look nowadays you commit a crime you go in do your time and your doing the same thing again and go back in. If there was severer punishments it would make people think twice. By the way these things require evidence and under Islamic law if you follow it properly there has to be a full jury and then the verdict is given.

    There is lot more in Quran which is Undiscovered yet…. The Quran is a book of signs not a book of science, it contains some of science like(the big bang and embryology etc…) so can the scientists think about this as a book of God cuz an illiterate man in a desert 1400 years ago (prophet Muhammad PBUH) could never be able to know those information’s by himself. Only God could know that 1400 years ago.

    Muslims are fundamental to the advancement of science and many other areas in the modern era.

    If Islam is so bad, then why is it the WORLD’S FASTEST GROWING RELIGION! It is also one of the youngest religions. However no matter how hard everyone tries to give Islam a bad name, it will be twice as more populated. So let’s get straight to the point yeah?, Basically Islam is the most hated religion I don’t know why hmm maybe because it is also the most fastest growing religion and 2nd largest but no one will be able to stop this religion from growing.

    Islam is the fastest growing faith in Britain. Hundreds and thousands of Brits are reverting to Islam. By the middle of this century, over half of Brits would be Muslims.

    “I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to
    possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence which can make itself appeal to every age. I have studied him – the wonderful man and in my opinion for from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the saviour of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness: I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today.” [G.B. Shaw, THE GENUINE ISLAM, Vol. No. 81936.]
    IA
    http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.