Many readers are no doubt aware of reports about the extensive teaching of Islam to middle schoolers in Walton County, Georgia.
The curriculum of Youth Middle School there is heavily slanted toward the teaching of Islam — which is one problem.
“We are seeing one page, five statements of Christian faith and 5 or 10 pages of Islamic faith, so there is no accountability to make sure it is equal,” said [parent Ryan] Breece.
Another is a problem that has recurred elsewhere, of students being required to write out (or recite) the shahada, or statement of Islamic faith.
In teaching Christianity in the schools, one equivalent might be requiring students to write out the text of John 3:16. An exact equivalent would be requiring students to write out the text of one of the canonical creeds, such as the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed.
Being required to write out any of these Christian texts, for a grade, would of course be deemed a violation of today’s understanding of separating church and state.
A number of writers have also pointed out one of the first problems that came to public notice with the Georgia school curriculum: the claim taught to children that all three major monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – worship the “same God.”
This is emphatically not what either Judaism or Christianity would say, considering that important aspects of “God” in both faiths are very different from the “Allah” of Islam.
But parents in the Georgia school district have found that there is no instruction about that alternative view. In the instruction block on Islam, students are merely taught Islam’s view, that Allah is the same God as Jehovah.
All that is bad enough. It’s very important to understand, however, that the presentation of the other two religions through an Islamic lens goes further than that, in at least two Georgia counties (and probably more). (The counties in question are Paulding and Pike. The Facebook page where this information has been posted can be accessed here, but it’s a closed group you’ll need to request admission to. Ryan Breece responded very promptly to my Facebook request.)
Based on the “comparative religions” work sheet from another school, posted by a parent at Ryan Breece’s Facebook page, it is clear that Christianity and Judaism are being taught in terms that subtly reinforce the Islamic narrative about those faiths – rather than teaching what Christianity and Judaism would actually say.
In other words, all the teaching about the three major monotheistic religions appears crafted to build the Islamic narrative – which is that Islam is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s original promise to Abraham, and that Judaism and Christianity are basically artifacts of earlier divine revelation, which have been superseded and “corrected” by later revelation. Islam claims a right, arising from the finality of its revelation through Mohammed, to restate or reinterpret (or simply ignore) even the most essential beliefs of Judaism and Christianity.
And that is what the work sheet posted to Ryan Breece’s Loganville Middle School Facebook page does.
Who Jesus is
The most obvious instance of this is in the “View of Jesus” row and the entry for Christianity. Ryan Breece and some of his Facebook correspondents immediately noticed about it the same thing I did: that it doesn’t reflect the Christian view of Jesus. It says Christianity views Jesus as a “leader” and “king.”
Christianity views Jesus as the son of God, as God incarnate, as the savior of mankind, and as the Messiah (“anointed one”) promised throughout the Old Testament. To not state this as the Christian view of Jesus is to lie by omission. It is to give false instruction. The point isn’t whether you agree with Christian belief; what matters is whether it is being reflected accurately. And it’s not.
In fact – and this is what’s important – the very Christian beliefs about Jesus that Islam disagrees with are the ones that are left out.
But it doesn’t stop there. Look at the line for “Father” of the faith, and observe how it has been tailored.
“Fathers of the faith”
Now, “father” of the faith is a designation the three faiths wouldn’t necessarily make in the same way. Abraham isn’t the “Father” of Judaism in the same way Jesus would be of Christianity, or Mohammed of Islam. None of them filled the same role in their respective religions, for one thing.
Abraham, for whom no divine nature is claimed, received the first promise that separated a people (ultimately, the Jews) to God’s purposes.
Jesus, by contrast, is believed by Christians to have been “God made man,” who fulfilled the prophecies given to the Jews by becoming a perfect sacrifice for the sins of all mankind, and is now a resurrected savior.
Mohammed – non-divine, but revered – is believed by Muslims to have received a divine revelation that represents the summit of all revelations from the one God.
It’s a significant question why Abraham is chosen as the “Father of Judaism,” rather than Moses, who received the revelation of the Law and wrote the Torah. Indeed, the life of Moses and the exodus of the Jews from Egypt constitute the rich and profound narrative of Judaism about God’s nature, His provision, and the Judaic ideas of mercy and redemption, among other bedrock aspects of the faith. It is accurate to say that “Judaism,” per se, as a fully formed faith with doctrine and beliefs about the nature of God, began not with Abraham but with Moses.
It’s also a significant question why Judaism isn’t listed as considering God Himself to be the Father of the faith, as Christianity is. Judaism does believe the God Jehovah (YHWH) is the author of their faith.
And in light of Mohammed being given as the “Father of Islam,” neither Abraham nor Jesus really fits the same criteria for, respectively, Judaism or Christianity. (In the latter case, Paul or Peter might fit better.)
But everything on the “Father of the faith” line can be made to fit, if we adopt the perspective of Islam.
Islam needs Abraham in the entries for Judaism – because for Islam, Mohammed is linked to the transformative “Abrahamic covenant” through him. Both Ishmael (patriarch of the Arab peoples) and Isaac (the patriarch of the Jews) were Abraham’s sons. Islam claims to have the true and fully perfected legacy of God to Abraham, superseding – indeed, supervening – the legacy of Judaism through Isaac.
Emphasizing Abraham, while leaving Moses and the Law out of a bumper-sticker view of Judaism, is inexplicable – unless the goal is to support the Islamic narrative, with impressionistic clues for the young student. Abraham is indispensable to the Islamic narrative. Moses isn’t (and indeed, in some ways, is rather inconvenient for it).
The reference to “God,” meanwhile, in the Father-of-the-faith entry for Christianity, may have different purposes. Given that Christianity is misrepresented in other teachings in the Georgia schools curriculum, we shouldn’t assume it’s put there for accuracy’s sake.
One thing it does, however, is bolster a point that’s important to Islam, which is that Jesus – in Islam – was significant enough to merit special recognition of his purpose in God’s divine plan. Islam considers Jesus the second greatest prophet, behind Mohammed. According to Islam, Allah did commission Jesus to have a special prophetic role. That Christians consider him to have been, among other things, a “messenger” of God, fits the Islamic narrative.
It also fits the Islamic narrative for explicit allusions to God’s provision to be absent from the entries about Judaism, as they so notably are. (Christians, by contrast, would emphasize the connection of Jehovah God to Judaism, if it were their view governing the entries for this work sheet.)
The designation of “holy cities” is another category that the three religions wouldn’t approach the same way. And in this case, too, the entries on the work sheet serve to shape a student’s mind to the narrative of Islam.
Jews wouldn’t necessarily say they have a holy city. They have a historically Jewish, Israeli city, within which is a holy site: the site of the First and Second temples.
Both Jews and Christians believe Jerusalem is designated as God’s special city, and that it figures large in prophecy. Calling the city “holy” is a more complicated exercise in definition, for both religions.
But that view doesn’t parallel the modern, apocalyptic emphasis of some Islamic theorists on Jerusalem as a city for which Muslims ought to fight, make sacrifices, or even kill (e.g., here and here). Christians explicitly separate the idea of fighting over Jerusalem from any concept of religious obligation. Christianity, in the sense of tenets of the faith, is not about worshiping on particular territory, or fighting for it. As Christians see it, God looks after His city, and moves to do what He intends with it in His own time.
It’s worth noting here that Islam’s holiest sites by far are Mecca and Medina. Nothing significant to Islam, per se, happened in Jerusalem, and there is no longstanding history of special doctrinal regard for the city in Islam. The emphasis of modern Islamic radicalism on Jerusalem is a recent development.
But it’s of equal importance that this category of “holy cities” is another one that can be used to suggest parallels that don’t really exist between the religions, or parallel “answers” that don’t mean the same thing.
The false parallel is used to shape an Islamic narrative – in this case implying that Islam carries on the two earlier faiths’ regard for Jerusalem as “the holy city.”
If Judaism were being taught by itself, a religious-history curriculum would emphasize the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law; the Exodus; the ancient nation of Israel; the history of the temples; the influence of Judaism on the ancient Middle East and Christian Europe; the Diaspora; and the great philosophers and theologians of Judaism in the Christian era. It wouldn’t look like the “Judaism” we see encapsulated on this work sheet.
Likewise, if Christianity were being taught by itself, a curriculum would emphasize the roots in Judaic prophecy; the claimed nature of Jesus; the growth of the early church; the churches and theologians of Rome and the Byzantine Empire (the Roman-Orthodox split) and of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation (the Protestant-Catholic split); the unique history and character of Christian “missions” and evangelization; and the links of Christianity with the West’s systematizing of science and political-economic philosophy.
But the work sheet posted on Facebook doesn’t capture Judaism and Christianity in a way that honestly promotes understanding of the two religions. It frames them through a lens that suits Islam, drawing implied parallels – some of them false – that support the doctrinal narrative of Islam.
No surprise, given where the “Islam” curricula came from
This shouldn’t surprise us, considering the origins of the Common Core standards, whose advent in American schools ushered in the new teaching tools for Islam.
Common Core has been heavily influenced and promoted by the Qatar Foundation International. (To supplement the superb documentation of Bethany Blankley, referenced at the earlier link, see here and here for more background on Common Core’s link to QFI, as well as to Obama’s radical-left circle.)
Funding connections for Common Core and education projects closely interlinked with it map back to Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood, Qadhafi-era Libya, and George Soros.
Maggie’s Notebook highlights this interesting point from the QFI website:
QFI, funded by the Qatari government, explains on its website the initiative was founded in response to Obama’s call in his June 2009 speech to the Arab world in Cairo, Egypt, to “create a new online network, so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo.”
As is obvious from the features at its website, QFI quickly tailored its mission to influencing American education.
Meanwhile, another interesting development is that the premier annual conference on implementing Common Core standards in American-curriculum schools abroad – principally those sponsored by the U.S. State Department – is the one for “MENA,” the Middle East and North Africa, held in Dubai. It will convene for its third year in row on 16 and 17 October.
The Islamic slant of comparative-religion teaching, in classroom tools like the ones in Georgia, isn’t crudely obvious. You have to know at least the fundamentals about the three religions to see how something as simple as designing the matrix for a work sheet has become a way to package information dishonestly.
If the matrix is written to reflect Islamic belief, it isn’t necessarily a dishonest presentation. But it’s definitely dishonest to pass the matrix off as a framework for accurately comparing the three religions. Yet that’s what is happening in at least some of the Georgia public schools.