Islamophobia and Text Books in Texas

A history book used in Texas until 2003 mentions Islam more than Christianity. Much outrage ensues.

Via the BBC:  Texas weighs bid to rid schools of ‘pro-Islam’ books

The measure, on which the Texas Board of Education will vote on Friday in the state capital of Austin, is drafted by Randy Rives, a businessman and former school official in the Texas city of Odessa.

Supporters say the resolution is needed to warn textbook publishers not to print “anti-Christian” books if they want to sell them to Texas schools.

“It’s the pro-Islamic, anti-Christian teachings in these books, that is what we are concerned about,” Mr Rives told the BBC.

“We’re teaching double the beliefs and specifics about another religion than we are about Christianity, which is the foundation of our country.”

Among several complaints, the resolution says that a textbook used until 2003 used pejorative language to describe the crusaders while “euphemising Muslim conquest of Christian lands as ‘migrations'”.

It also says a book approved for use in Texas schools until 2003 devoted 159 lines of text to Islam and only 82 to Christianity, and recounted crusaders’ massacres of European Jews while ignoring a 15th Century massacre of Baghdad Muslims by the Muslim conqueror Tamerlane.

According to a write-up in the DMN (Resolution against pro-Islamic textbooks goes before Texas Board of Education today):

Members of the board’s social conservative bloc asked for the resolution after an unsuccessful candidate for a board seat called on the panel to head off any bias against Christians in new social studies books. Some contend that “Middle Easterners” are increasingly buying into companies that publish textbooks.

(Emphasis mine).

If a phobia is an irrational fear of something, I don’t know how else to characterize all of this save as Islamophobia.  The notion that Middle Easterners are buying up textbook companies so that they can insert “pro-Islamic”  language into history texts whilst dissing Christianity is absurd on its face.

Further, the notion that Texas schoolchildren need history texts as conduits for information on Christianity is likewise absurd (and I say that as a ex-pat Texan and a  member of the “weekly church attender” demographic).

No doubt any history book of any kind can be criticized for omissions since any given book can only contain, by definition, a finite amount of information.  Likewise words choices and the like can always be pick apart.  I will even stipulate that the quality of a given text may not be all that it could be.

However, this kind of thing always makes me wonder why some people are so insecure that they seem to believe that our way of life is so fragile that something like this can threaten us in some way (or that it matters at all)–especially since one of the books isn’t even being used any longer.  Do they think that because a certain adjective was used or because a certain event was ignored that extreme versions of Sharia will soon take over the Lone Star State?  Do they think that an inadequate number of lines devoted to Christianity will lead to mass renunciations of the faith?  What motivates people to take an out of use textbook and count the lines in which Islam is mentioned for that matter?

I also find it sad and inappropriate when discussions like this hinge far more on politics than they do about knowledge, expertise, or education.  Of course, by the same token I am more than aware that knowledge and education are hardly divorced from politics.

More from the DNMTexas education board to consider rule on Islam’s portrayal in textbooks.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Trumwill says:

    While I agree with the substance of your post, if they are correct about Muslim conquests being referred to as migrations and Christian conquests as conquests, this sort of thing invites this kind of stupid backlash. Of course, given the objectors, I am pretty reluctant to give their portrayal of the textbook portrayals instant credibility.

  2. wr says:

    You mean we’re no longer allowed to acknowledge that the Crusades were a war for conquest? What other parts of history must we ignore to please the Tea Party?

  3. floyd says:

     Only the intentional lies like that one!

  4. Steve Plunk says:

    Some people have a phobia regarding the Texas Board of Education.  We’re talking about a few words in a few textbooks.  Is it any more rational to fear them than it is for them to fear Islam?  They aren’t asking for Islam to be condemned or Christianity to be taught as the official religion of the land.  They are asking for more balance.  Someone was recently talking about compromise…

  5. Grewgills says:

    Are you actually trying to say that the Crusades were not about conquest?

  6. PD Shaw says:

    If you read “The Crusades Through Arab Eyes” by Amin Maalouf, which is based Arab accounts at the time, I think you would have to conclude that a lot of different people are moving through the area, seeking alliances and claiming territory.  Franks were teaming up with Seljuk Turks to fight other Franks, who would seek alliances with Arabs.  There are factions of Armenians and Jews and Syrian Christians . . .

    I don’t believe one can objectively say the Franks were conquerors and the Seljuk Turks were “migrating.”  I’d calling it sporting one’s bias.

  7. floyd says:

     And the failure to understand the history of that era may well be the biggest threat to western civilization today.

  8. sam says:

    ” And the failure to understand the history of that era may well be the biggest threat to western civilization today.”
    You mean, of course, “the history as we will tell it to further our goal of frightening the living shit out of folks so we can declare war on Islam,” right? That history.

  9. floyd says:

    No sammy you must mean that since you said it “”Right” Huh? DUH!