Friday, October 21, 2016

Should public schools teach Islamic history?

Today's religion column in the Kingsport Timesnews

In the minds of most of the people I know, when it comes to Islam, it’s either a confusing or it’s an unsettling religion. Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Muslims have become a centerpiece of the American conversation. For example, you can’t watch a Presidential debate or the daily news without a reference being made about some Islamic-subset.

Presently, it’s impossible to ignore the Islamic world, and, the influence of Islam on the world-stage is undeniable. Islamic mathematicians shaped Algebra as we know it and major medical advances were made by Islamic scholars during the Medieval area. One of the greatest games ever, Chess, was popularized and changed forever by Islam. From its bloody origins, even up to this day, Islam has played a major role in shaping history.

Therefore, I was shocked when I heard that some people are more comfortable allowing teachers to talk in middle school classrooms about smoking pot and using condoms, than they are with our schools teaching the history of Islam. It’s hard to fathom why it’s being proposed we remove a major portion of the Islamic historical studies from the seventh grade Social Studies curriculum.

Middle school, don’t forget, is also the phase of life when we trust our kids to learn about marijuana, meth, binge-drinking, all sorts of contraceptives and intercourse in the classroom -- it’s the time when our children are led through DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) and Sex Ed. I guess no one is too concerned that these two programs might stimulate impressionable minds towards..., unwanted actions?

It seems like the paranoia surrounding the Islamic middle school curriculum rests on the illogical notion that as our young adults are exposed to historical teachings about Islam, they might become overly interested in Islam and somehow wind up indoctrinated into Islam. Should we also remove the history of the Holocaust to avoid sparking potential interest in students becoming Neo-Nazis? Will our young people become racists when they learn about the march on Birmingham?

If we can’t expose our middle schoolers to the history of Islam, what’s next, do we remove this history from our high schoolers as well? At what point do we begin to trust our students with this history? Most seventh graders have smartphones with which they can access plenty of questionable materials online. I’m not sure how this type of censorship will help our young people stay current with the rest of the Country’s educational system or help them to understand one of the greatest threats to global stability?

Could this proposal end up handicapping our students?

Make no mistake about it, Islam is dangerous. But what’s even more dangerous is having a generation of uneducated young adults ill-equipped to face the 21st Century world they live in. In the 1950’s, understanding Islam better could possibly have helped reduce the blistering turmoil which the Middle East continues to endure. It’s certainly no less important today to understand Islam, considering our current milieu.

If you really want to quell the reach of Islam, stop their funding and quit buying oil from Islamic regimes. Also, we need to be more active in the spreading of the Christian faith.

The majority of American converts to Islam today are funded by our tax dollars. No, these converts aren’t being led into the Muslim faith by studying the Quran in middle school. It’s within the walls of our prison system that many people become Muslims. Sadly, Islamic chaplains are able to reach an angry and captive audience, on your dime.

Our young people need to be educated about the history of Islam if they want to take part in educated conversations surrounding one of the most talked about subgroups on the daily news. Kids need to see the differences in Islam and other world religions and they need to comprehend that Islam is concerned with only one goal, world domination. But, shielding our youth from the history of this movement only keeps them ignorant -- unenlightened minds are powerless to make educated decisions.

The Bible never endorses ignoring evil, or false teachers, which I think describes Islam well. Instead, the Bible has instructions to confront these difficulties head on, such as, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ...” (2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV)

Our young people need to begin as soon as possible learning about the Muslim culture and its heritage if they are to understand how deal with the threat it poses. It’s senseless for young adults to enter high school not knowing what Ramadan is, or to remain ignorant to why Islam is divided between Sunni and Shiites. How do you keep the integrity of a middle school history curriculum and neglect the Crusades or the Ottoman Empire?

In the end, to remove the study of Islam risks disabling the framework for understanding the dividing line between the East and the West, and therefore our young people won’t be able to process world events as well. I get it, people are frightened by Islam. Still, yet another way for me to put this: If you are led by fear, you aren’t being led by faith.

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