By Ben Small
CAIR-Chicago Staff Attorney Rabya Khan met with officials at a Chicago-area high school on Monday, August 15th, regarding a complaint CAIR-Chicago received by a parent alleging that the high school’s social studies class is distributing misleading worksheets on Islam. The worksheets in question, produced by a California based educational resource company, teaches students that the religion of Islam is oppressive towards women, inherently violent, and played an important role in harboring slavery.
One of the readings contains verses from the Quran which are quoted out-of-context wrongly giving the impression that women are considered inferior to men. A corresponding worksheet then asks: “The Qur’an stresses the equality of all believers. Yet many say its views about men and women definitely give men more power. How does the top passage here from the Qu’ran support this view?” The reading is accompanied by a photo of two women in burqa, a full-body covering worn by only a minority of Muslim women worldwide. The inauthentic translation, imagery, and presentation of information leads students to a biased conclusion about the status of men and women in Islam.
Another reading implies that slavery was an encouraged practice in Islam, and then the corresponding worksheet states “Slavery was common in Islam; however, it took several very different forms. […] Prepare a brief talk to the class on what you learn about these two forms of slavery. Title your talk, “Slavery’s Many Forms in the Islamic World.”” Wrongly suggesting some sort of link between slavery and Islam. In reality, the Qu’ran strongly condemned slavery and offered enticing rewards to those who freed slaves. Prophet Muhammad himself freed numerous slaves and the situation for slaves greatly improved with the advent of Islam.
In the textbook “The Rise of the Modern Middle East”, lesson titles include “Islam and Islamic Radicalism”. The parent who brought these reading materials to CAIR-Chicago’s attention expressed concern that that over emphasis on the small number of radical Muslims in the world will reinforce stereotypes that link Islam and terrorism and that students will not receive a balanced understanding of Islam and Muslims.
Rabya Khan met with school officials to convey the importance of presenting balanced perspectives and not perpetuating stereotypes. CAIR-Chicago has requested that the school remove the worksheets, and not use them again or any similar worksheets. Rabya also provided a resource list of organizations that can conduct workshops on Islam, including CAIR-Chicago, and is compiling a list of educational resource companies with balanced materials on Islam and Muslims.