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 Islam studies spark lawsuits

BRAVE NEW SCHOOLS
Islam studies spark
hate mail, lawsuits

Parents: 'Biased' state-adopted textbook distorts world history in favor of Muslims
By Diana Lynne
 2002 WorldNetDaily.com

Word of public-school students pretending to be Muslims, wearing robes, simulating jihads and memorizing verses from the Koran in a seventh-grade California classroom touched off a firestorm of debate, but WorldNetDaily has learned these classroom exercises are neither isolated to one school district nor are they anything new.

Parents of seventh-graders across the state report similar experiences, and one tells WND she battled with her school district over the Islam teachings in 1994.

As WorldNetDaily reported last week, an article by Assist News Service described student activities at Excelsior School in Byron, Calif., where "students are to pretend that they are Muslims, wear Muslim clothing to school, stage their own jihad via a dice game and pick out a Muslim name (to replace their own) from a list of 30."

ANS quoted an "outraged" teacher at Excelsior and parent of a seventh-grader: "We can't even mention the name of Jesus in the public schools, but ... they teach Islam as the true religion, and students are taught about Islam and how to pray to Allah."

The story sparked outrage and prompted a flood of 500 calls, WorldNetDaily was told, to the Byron Union School District the following morning. Principal Nancie Castro also reports receiving about 200 hate e-mails. The story quickly became grist for talk shows from 560 KSFO radio to the Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes" program. And in response to the story posted on WorldNetDaily, the international public-interest law firm The American Center for Law and Justice is demanding Excelsior School permit students to opt out of the course, contending it "is a violation of the First Amendment free speech and free exercise rights of students and violates the right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children."

In its letter to the Byron Union School District, ACLJ states, "We want to make sure this district knows that it crossed the line. We also want to make sure that other school districts don't fall into the same trap and require students to attend courses that violate their own religious beliefs."

Dealing with 'hysteria'

The raging controversy has parents blaming schools, schools blaming the state, and one lawsuit blaming the course textbook adopted by the state. Castro also blames the media. In a letter sent to parents, she claims the school has been "victimized by a classic case of misinformation that has led to hysteria among people outside of our community." Included in the "misinformation" in the ANS report, according to Castro, is that it was not mandatory for students to take names of Arabs of the Middle Ages or to wear Muslim clothing, and they did not wear the robes to school but only during the class "simulation."

As for the simulated jihad Castro explained, "There was a dice game where, depending on the role, they had to do various things like answer a quiz bowl question or read a trivia fact. One roll had them roll for the highest number and called it a jihad." In a response to a query from Prophezine News, Castro explained, "Dressing up in costume, role-playing and simulation games are all used to stimulate class discussion and are common teaching practices used in other subjects as well."

When asked whether students were to memorize Islamic terms, phrases, proverbs and the Five Pillars of Faith of the Islam religion, as reported by ANS, Castro replied, "There are vocabulary words to be learned as in every unit. They did not have to memorize proverbs or prayers. They learned some phrases such as peace be with you, but nothing religious or praying to Allah."

As for lessons from the Koran, Castro said, "There are some verses in the text that are read, just like there are Bible verses in the text in the section on Christianity." WorldNetDaily has learned, however, that students were offered extra credit if they memorized verses from the Koran. Sources also report that no Bible verses were learned, and Christianity overall was "barely touched on."

It is this perceived slighting of Christianity and Judaism contrasted with the virtual promotion of Islam in public schools that parents are taking issue with all across the state, from Byron in Northern California south to San Diego. But WND has discovered that the issue is not new.

Valerie Moore says her daughter "was indoctrinated in the Islamic religion for over four months while in the seventh grade" in 1994. Moore expressed shock in arriving at Joseph Kerr Junior High School in Elk Grove, Calif., one day and being greeted by a "huge banner on the front grounds of the school that read 'There is one God, Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.'" Moore also recounts witnessing "children dressed in Muslim attire, chanting from the Koran and praying while marching around the cabala." Moore recalls the banner being up all day.

"What if we put up a sign that says 'Jesus is Lord' for 30 minutes? Oh, no. You can't do that separation of church and state," Moore laments. "They aren't just teaching them about Islam; they have them practicing it. They have them kneeling down and praying to Allah. I have a problem with that. That's more like inculcation." Moore says when she complained to the school officials she was ridiculed and yelled at.

In her letter to parents, Castro maintained, "At no point do we teach or endorse religion; we teach about religions' impact from a historical context. ... students learn about Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and other major religions as they apply to the understanding of history and the development of major Western and non-Western civilizations. This is the state-approved curriculum, using state-adopted textbooks and has been part of the instructional program in California for over a decade."      

California standards

Content standards adopted in 1998 by the California State Board of Education explicitly state the content students need to acquire at each grade level from kindergarten to grade 12. The standards lay out the following for seventh grade World History and Geography:

7.2 Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the civilizations of Islam in the Middle Ages.

  1. Identify the physical features and describe the climate of the Arabian peninsula, its relationship to surrounding bodies of land and water, and nomadic and sedentary ways of life.
  2. Trace the origins of Islam and the life and teachings of Mohammad, including Islamic teachings on the connection with Judaism and Christianity.
  3. Explain the significance of the Koran and the Sunnah as the primary sources of Islamic beliefs, practice, and law, and their influence in Muslims' daily life.
  4. Discuss the expansion of Muslim rule through military conquests and treaties, emphasizing the cultural blending within Muslim civilization and the spread and acceptance of Islam and the Arabic language.
  5. Describe the growth of cities and the establishment of trade routes among Asia, Africa, and Europe, the products and inventions that traveled along these routes (e.g., spices, textiles, paper, steel, new crops), and the role of merchants in Arab society.
  6. Understand the intellectual exchanges among Muslim scholars of Eurasia and Africa and the contributions Muslim scholars made to later civilizations in the areas of science, geography, mathematics, philosophy, medicine, art, and literature.

"The state guidelines call for the approach to religion to be academic, not devotional," stressed Tom Adams, the adminstrator for curriculum framework.

Continued on Page 2

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