Tennessee parents want “Islamic indoctrination” out of their kids’ textbooks

From fighting for puritanical abstinence-only sex ed, to leading crusades against teaching evolution, to literally passing an amendment in the Republican Party platform mandating that the Bible be taught in public schools, Christian conservatives have never been shy about ensuring that their religious views, subliminally or outright, dominate young people’s educational experiences. No wonder, then, that activists of the conservative Christian community are leading a movement against “Islamic indoctrination” in Tennessee public schools, initially forming a coalition dubbed White County Citizens Against Islamic Indoctrination, which has since changed to Citizens Against Islamic Indoctrination (CAII).

In 2017, the State Board of Education of Tennessee’s White County, which Mic reports is appropriately named demographic wise, will vote on several changes to its middle school history standards — namely what is and isn’t required for children to be taught. These standards will be in place for at least six years after being enacted, and the CAII wants to see that teachers are no longer required to teach about certain parts of Islamic history and culture.

Apparently, theirs is the only religion they’d like to be pushed on young people. That being said, it’s worth noting Islam is hardly being “pushed” on students. The curriculum in question is literally just new textbooks purchased by the board containing verses from the Quran, the Islamic holy text.

“The problem is that you’re not teaching Bible verses,” one activist, conservative talk radio host Steve Gill, told Mic. “You’re not teaching John 3:16, we’re not teaching that Jesus is the way and the light and the truth. There’s no other way to the Father, but through Him. Why the double standard?” Clearly, parents’ beef with the new textbooks isn’t the inclusion of the religious texts in school material. Their problem is with educating students about a culture that deviates from White County’s predominantly white, homogeneous community.

According to Mic, it could become entirely optional to teach seventh graders in Tennessee about the differences between the Sunni, Shia, and Sufi sects, critically influential cultural exchanges between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, or Islam’s Golden Age of enlightenment, which yielded all kinds of scientific findings still relevant today. Meanwhile, requirements for teaching basics of Christianity and Judaism would remain in tact, which doesn’t sound like a double standard at all.

Gill and others protesting textbooks’ inclusion of verses from the Quran have alleged pro-Islam bias from the textbook publisher, Pearson Group, with one activist going so far as to claim the company is plotting to “unleash bloodless jihad in America’s classrooms through its textbooks,” whatever that means.

Scott Overland, Pearson Group’s media director, responded to allegations with the levelheaded statement: “There are verses in the Quran in Pearson’s textbooks — just like there are verses from the Torah and Bible in the coverage of Judaism and Christianity.” Just as so much of learning European history involves some basic understanding of Christianity and Judaism, understanding the rich history of the Middle East and all of its contributions to modern society would be impossible without basic understanding of its dominant religion.

In this sense, protesting this curriculum is not only Islamophobic, but also deeply white-centric. Hm, what was that super famous quote again? “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression” — the speaker is unknown, but his/her point is certainly relevant to this situation.

At a time in which rabid ignorance about Islam and its teachings, history, and followers is being used by politicians like Donald Trump to demonize the religion and make generalizations about those who practice it, education is more important now than ever.