A photo of two girls wearing head scarves appearing over the subhead: "Security threat." A statement that "some Muslims began immigrating to the United States in order to transform American society, sometimes through the use of terrorism." These seem to be at the heart of a public complaint being lodged by the Council on American-Islamic Relations against a series of children's textbooks called "The World of Islam."
The CAIR, which describes itself as America's largest Muslim advocacy group, held a press conference yesterday in Philadelphia. The group says that the books, which are aimed at readers aged 10 and under, can be found in public and academic libraries in more than 20 states.
"When you finish reading these books you walk away with the impression that Muslims are inherently violent, that Islam is a second-rate religion, and that one should be wary of Muslims in any society," said Moein Khawaja, civil rights director of the Pennsylvania chapter of CAIR.
The books are published by Mason Crest Publishers, which collaborated with the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute on their content. The FPRI issued a press release, saying that charges that the books were anti-Muslim were "without basis," adding that, "there is no better way to ascertain the truth than to read the books." FPRI vice president Alan Luxenberg – who is also the author of one of the books in the series entitled "Radical Islam" – said that the quote about terrorism had been taken out of context from a five-page section on the history of Muslim immigration to the United States.
At least two famous names have been associated with the FPRI. Alexander Haig, US secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan, was a board member. Daniel Pipes, who was nominated by President George W. Bush for the board of the United States Institute of Peace, was director of the FPRI from 1986 to 1993.
Pipes – who says he had "no role in the 'World of Islam' series" – spoke out on the controversy online, presenting evidence of a private e-mail exchange that he says demonstrates that staff members at the CAIR are biased against Jewish and Serbian authors.
Meanwhile, for educators and parents looking for an alternative to the "World of Islam" series, Khawaja has a recommendation. Mason Crest, the publisher of "The World of Islam" offers a different set of books, a 10-part series called "Introducing Islam."
That series, says Khawaja, "does what a schoolbook is supposed to do: educate."
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.