More than the Koran

Posted: May 23, 2005 12:00 AM

No matter what you think of the inaccurate Newsweek item about flushing the Koran down a Guantanamo toilet, it's a mistake to say, as the White House does, that anyone died because of it. Toilets don't kill people, fanatics do.

Americans don't kill each other over burning the Bible, as reprehensible as Bible-burning would be, nor did any of us take to the streets to shout insults at Muslim "infidels" when Palestinian Muslims used pages from a Bible as toilet paper during the occupation of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, or when Islamic radicals beheaded Daniel Pearl, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, simply because he was a Jew. We mourned him with word and ceremony. The soldiers who abused Muslims at Abu Ghraib prison were brought to trial, after the U.S. Army itself exposed the scandal.

Afghan rioters who were whipped into a frenzy of hatred against America by their Islamist imams were nurtured on violence long before the publication of the Newsweek article and their leaders exploited the Newsweek item for their own cynical purposes. The imams may be the only people in the world who benefited from the Newsweek story. With the White House spreading the word about its "respect" for Islam and the Koran (and coming close to pandering to Muslim red-hots), it's useful to point out how Islam and the Islamic holy book are used to encourage violence.

Americans are poorly educated in the ways of Islam and the White House doesn't help when, seeking to appease, it simplifies the complex and varying interpretations of the Koran. Only recently, parents in Scottsdale, Ariz., objected to a new seventh-grade history textbook because it distorts significant interpretations of the Koran, ignoring the way it is used to further the global ambitions of militant Islam.

The book, "History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond," was examined by Gilbert T. Sewall, director of the American Textbook Council, an organization that reviews history textbooks and social studies curricula. He agrees with the objections of the parents. He further observed that its chief author-adviser is an apologist for Islamists. The text renders "jihad" (holy war) uncritically and in lyrical terms, as "a struggle within each individual to overcome difficulties and strive to please God, (which) may become a physical struggle for protection against enemies." This is exactly how Islamists define the jihadists who crashed the airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11. The Teachers' Curriculum Institute, publisher of the textbook, is pushing the textbook now into the lucrative textbook market in California.

Two years ago, the American Textbook Council studied seven widely adopted world history textbooks for grades seven to 12 and found that many hold Western civilization to a much higher standard than non-Western civilizations, especially Islam. Diane Ravitch, a historian of education, shows how textbooks distort by omission.

In her book, "The Language Police," she cites one text that observes how the Koran "sets harsh penalties for crimes such as stealing or murder," but does not explain that the "harsh penalties" include chopping off the hands of thieves, or that women adulterers are publicly stoned or beheaded in strict Islamic societies such as Saudi Arabia. In discussing "enhanced rights" for Muslim women, texts acknowledge that a man can have four wives, but note, approvingly, that he must support all four of them equally. This is progress, perhaps, but only from the eighth to the ninth century.

Many of the textbooks that Palestinian children use include Islamist messages that Israel and the United States must be destroyed because they are "the big and little Satans." Maps of the Middle East continue to omit Israel. Schools and communities continue to celebrate suicide bombers against both countries.

By contrast, Israeli school children are taught positive images of Islam and Arab culture. The Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, a nonpolitical, nonprofit organization, reviewed 360 Israeli textbooks and found them to focus on reconciliation, tolerance and peace without instigation toward hatred. Israeli textbooks aim to educate against stereotypes of "evil" Arabs and "bad" Muslims. The Israeli government actively supports "Seeds of Peace," a program that brings Arab and Jewish teenagers together with an emphasis on reducing prejudice before it matures and festers. President Bush praises it for bringing tomorrow's leaders together, "changing minds and hearts one person at a time."

That's good as far as it goes, but civilized men must find ways to move a little faster. More suicide bombers are in training.