Concerns that Alabama could recommend social studies textbooks with pro-Islamic bias caused the state board of education to cancel a planned vote on the books today, pending further review.
State Superintendent Tommy Bice said he would review the 12 books criticized by conservative groups and issue a recommendation to the board in January.
He had not decided whether he would recommend any of the books be excluded from the state’s recommended textbook list for social studies. “It’s not necessarily inaccurate information but possible perceived omissions and terminology that was not strong enough, things like that,” Bice said of the allegations that the books “favored Islam.”
Board Vice President Charles Elliott of Decatur said he thought four of the 12 books would be removed.
The board was slated to adopt the recommended textbook list for social studies, which includes more than 500 books, at its meeting today in Montgomery.
But concerns over 12 of the books were raised by the Eagle Forum of Alabama, a longtime conservative interest group, and the Birmingham chapter of ACT! for America, a conservative group dedicated to protecting freedom and security in America – though it has been criticized nationally as anti-Islamic.
Specific concerns raised by the groups in a letter sent Dec. 4 to school board members included that the books under reported the positive impacts of Christianity and failed to accurately represent the spread of Islam through violence.
“Islam was spread by the sword in most every case. The Muslims have killed millions in their 1,400-year history and enslaved millions more,” wrote Larry Houck, the founder of ACT! for America’s Birmingham chapter.
Houck said after the meeting he has been researching Islam since the Sept. 11 terror attacks and his goal is to tell Americans “what’s really going on,” describing a non-violent Jihad in America that relies Islamic influence over textbook publishers.
He also complained that the books dedicated more space to Islam and that sections on Islam usually have more and better photographs when compared to sections on Christianity and Judaism. “Why is so much text devoted to Islam? It appears to be deliberate efforts to proselytize for Islam and this is dangerous for our younger generations?” Houck wrote to the school board.
Regardless of the content, Bice said, the books are only a tool that teachers can use. What children learn, he said, is decided by the state’s course of study for social studies.
That document only mentions Islam twice, he said, when it asks eighth graders to compare the development of early world religions and their philosophies and again when it asks them to “describe early Islamic civilizations, including the development of religious, social and political systems.”
Bice also said his decision to delay consideration of the textbook list was no reflection on the work of an appointed committee tasked with reviewing and recommending new social studies textbooks. That work started in March of 2012, he said. Alabama schools are not required to use textbooks recommended by the state board, nor are they barred from using texts that are not on the list.
Update: See “Alabama delays approval of history texts after anti-Muslim groups complain they promote Jihad”, Right Wing Watch, 17 December 2013