A closer look at a proposed Islamic Studies curriculum

Thursday, October 21st 2004, 6:16 am
By: News On 6

An Islamic workshop continues to stir controversy in Tulsa. Some parents have formed what they call a watch-dog group. They want to prevent the use of an Islamic Studies curriculum presented at the workshop.

The News on 6 decided to take a closer look at the notebook at the center of the controversy, and the organization that distributes it. We discovered links from the group's website present a specific point of view that some parents say is anti-Semitic and anti-American.

News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin has more. The Middle East Policy Council's website [www.mepc.org] offers supplemental resources for its Arab World and Islam teacher workshop.

Under the list 'country specific information', clicking on Iraq a student would find a sole source for the latest news., a link to a decidedly left-leaning customized news presentation of U-S aggression in Iraq. Israel is not listed as a Middle Eastern nation, but clicking on Palestine and news, brings one to what it calls the 'real background' behind the conflict, a series of stories detailing the torture of Palestinian children at the hands of Israelis, with no mention of suicide bombers or Islamic extremists.

We showed the links to Tulsa School board member Matt Livengood. "If the only thing that students did was to go to these particular sites, then of course they would be getting a jaded view or a one-sided view of the issues and I would expect teachers to use this material not as the beginning and end of the study but as a supplement to say here's an example of one side of the story, now let's find samples of the other side of the story."

Livingood says any use of the material is not an endorsement on the school's part; the sites are simply one of many sources of information.

In a story this week, I told you how to see samples of the workbook online and read for yourself, the material presented at the workshop.

Those online samples do not include lesson plans like this one, instructing students to practice various phrases of Islamic prayer, then stating, see if you can use each of these appropriately today. Make a note card for each of them to keep handy in your pocket, to jot down the instance for which you used each of these phrases, for reporting to the class tomorrow, "in-sha-Allah" meaning God-willing."

It's an exercise that concerned Laura Thorpe, who attended the workshop. Thorpe's children go to a private religious school, but she says she went to the workshop out of curiosity over what could be taught in the community. "The first part of the workshop was interesting. It was. Basically a geography history lesson. But then she started getting into the Islamic religion. Culture and religion are two different things and if you look in this book it's very anti-American, it's very anti-Jewish, Christian, it's pretty slanted."

Educators are concerned that reaction to this material will not eliminate any study of Islam and the Arab world, especially in our current political climate. Laura Thorpe: "Do I think that it would be okay to talk about the Middle East? Sure, we need to know, its part of our everyday on TV. But not Islam." She says only a handful of teachers and parents actually attended that workshop.

Tulsa School officials re-iterated they are not adopting the curriculum, although some of the information could be used to supplement current lesson plans.

The school board vice president says with all of the attention the issue is getting, teachers are aware of the concerns. He also fears the potential fallout against local Muslim children.