SOWING THE SEEDS OF HATRED Islamic textbooks scapegoat Jews, Christians
Sunday, March 30th 2003, 2:01AM
Textbooks widely used in New York's Islamic schools contain passages that are blatantly anti-Semitic, condemning Jews as a people, repeating old canards about the Jews wanting to kill Christ and faking their Holy Scriptures to mock God.
The Islamic texts teach that "the Jews" killed their own prophets and betrayed the Prophet Muhammed through their inherent deceitfulness.
The books, obtained during a three-month Daily News investigation that included visits to private Muslim schools, are rife with inaccuracies, sweeping condemnations of Jews and Christians, and triumphalist declarations of Islam's supremacy.
In Long Island City, Queens, for example, fifth- and sixth-graders at the Ideal Islamic School on 12th St. learn that Allah has revealed that "the Jews killed their own prophets and disobeyed Allah."
At the Muslim Center Elementary School on Geranium Ave. in Flushing, Queens, a textbook for grades 6 through 8 teaches that Jews "subscribe to a belief in racial superiority. ... Their religion even teaches them to call down curses upon the worship places of non-Jews whenever they pass by them! They arrogantly refer to anyone who is not Jewish as 'gentiles,' equating them with sin."
The book "What Islam Is All About" states that, "The Christians also worship statues."
"Many" Jews and Christians, the book says, "lead such decadent and immoral lives that lying, alcohol, nudity, pornography, racism, foul language, premarital sex, homosexuality and everything else are accepted in their society, churches and synagogues."
Yet a third book, in use at the Ideal school, describes the hostile relations between Jews and the Prophet Muhammed in Medina in the 7th century.
"The reasons for Jewish hostility lies in their general characteristics," the book says. Numerous Koranic citations follow with negative references to Jews - for example, "You will ever find them deceitful, except for a few of them."
The textbooks in question are widely cited by Islamic educators as among the most popular in use. They come from two publishing companies specializing in Islamic studies textbooks that, together, appear to dominate this niche market in New York and elsewhere across the U.S.
"These books are dangerous because they continue to demonize Jews, to dehumanize them," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. At a time when the war in Iraq is inflaming anti-Western Islamic passions, he said, "They build a rationale for hatred that, in the end, can lead to the Holocaust."
And Eugene Fisher, associate director for interreligious affairs for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, commented, "Give me a break. We don't worship statues. That's teaching their children misunderstandings about Christianity that will lead them to grow up thinking all that stuff in the Koran about idolaters refers to us, their neighbors."
Fisher, who has been in charge of purging anti-Semitism from Catholic curriculums for years, said, "Where they get into trouble is not where they say we don't buy Jewish and Christian beliefs, but the ad hominem attacks against Jews and Christians."
Law prof demurs
Khaled Abou El-Fadl, a prominent professor of Islamic Law at UCLA, questioned the books' claims even on Islamic grounds.
"This type of rhetoric, unfortunately, is all too common," he said. "The crux is, am I disagreeing with ideas or thoughts, or am I finding a fundamental, nearly genetic, ethnic, racist flaw in others? The Koran itself says there are among the Jews those who do good, and they have no reason to fear.
"That is a far cry from saying Jews, as Jews, or Christians, as Christians, are somehow genetically coded to lie, to be corrupt. In fact, the historical experience of Islam challenges all these superstitions."
One of the publishers, a Chicago-based firm called the IQRA International Educational Foundation Inc. - IQRA means "recite" or "proclaim" in Arabic - got financial support until recently from a Saudi Arabian foundation.
IQRA's founder and director, Dr. Abidullah al-Ansari Ghazi, who wrote the books in question, acknowledged that they needed to be changed.
"What you're pointing out, I agree, these passages need to be revised," he said.
"I wrote these passages 10, 20 years ago," said Ghazi. "And, to tell you the truth, I based it on the classical sources, which are much harsher than what I wrote here."
Ghazi promised to revise parts of the text that condemn Jews as a people.
But the other publisher, Yahiya Emerick, who heads the Islamic Foundation of North America, a Queens-based nonprofit curriculum development project, stood by the language in his books, which are printed and distributed by International Books and Tapes Supply, or IBTS.
"Islam, like any belief system, believes its program is better than others. I don't feel embarrassed to say that," he said.
His books, Emerick stressed, "are directed to kids in a Muslim educational environment. They must learn and appreciate there are differences between what they have and what other religions teach. It's telling kids that we have our own tradition."
He denied the books were inflammatory.
The 3,000 to 4,000 children now attending New York's 15 private Islamic schools are a small but growing part of the city's Muslim student population of about 85,000. Many are from Bangladesh, India or Pakistan as well as the Middle East.
Many of their schools regularly outperform the public schools on state achievement tests. At al-Noor in Brooklyn, the largest Muslim school in the country with 650 students, more than 90 percent of high schoolers go on to college.
A hard row since 9/11
Since 9/11 Muslim students and teachers have had to endure the daily tension of hostility and discrimination on the streets. Families with uncertain immigrant status have been forced to flee the city.
There are no reliable breakdowns on how many local schools use the six books reviewed by The News. But Emerick has sold more than 40,000 copies of "What Islam Is All About."
About 10 percent of these sales are in New York.
"In Muslim terms, that makes it a best seller," he said.
Emerick said his books were in "at least half" the city's Muslim private schools.
Dr. Nidel Abasi, principal of Al-Noor, confirmed the purchase of the book, but said it was not used as part of the school's regular curriculum.
Shamshad Husain, IQRA's managing director, said his company has sold 3,000 copies of "Our Prophet," a book for elementary school students, 1,800 copies of "Mercy to Mankind," which is aimed at fifth- and sixth-graders and 900 copies of "Messenger of Allah," targeting students age 12 to 14. He had no breakdowns for New York City distribution.
All three books contain accounts of Prophet Muhammed's relations with Jews in 7th century Medina that appear to condemn or negatively characterize the conduct of Jews as a people.
Dr. Kurshid Khan, principal of the Ideal school, praised IQRA for its Islamic curriculum development, but stressed that his staff repeatedly warns students that "we can't generalize" about people's behavior because of their religion.
"When they hear on TV that a Muslim committed a terrorist act, we say, look, it's a special group. They're terrorists. That's the main focus. ... to inculcate in youth as they grow up a balanced mind."
As for the books' depictions of Jews, said Khan, "I've oriented my teachers that we must be very careful. We don't want them to make generalizations. Of course, I'm not in class all the time. But I keep bringing it up to the teachers."
Graphic: Texts' outrageous claims to confuse impressionable minds
On Jewish superiority: "Jews subscribe to a belief in racial superiority. ... Their religion even teaches them to call down curses upon the worship places of non-Jews whenever they pass by them! They arrogantly refer to anyone who is not Jewish as 'gentiles,' equating them with sin."
"What Islam Is All About," IBTS, pg. 188; target readers: Grades 3-6.
On Jewish deceit: "Allah revealed to Muhammed that the Jews had changed their Book, the Torah, killed their own prophets and disobeyed Allah. And the Jews did not want the Arabs to know about these shameful things."
"Mercy to Mankind," IQRA, pg. 23; target readers: Grades 5-6
On Jews wanting to kill Jesus: "After telling the governor lies about Jesus and making him think that Prophet Jesus was starting a rebellion against Rome, the Jews were finally able to get an order for his execution. The Koran states that the Jews did not kill Jesus nor did they crucify him. Allah states, however, that the Jews thought they did it."
"What Islam Is All About," IBTS, pg. 231; target readers: Grades 6-8
On Christian and Jewish decadence: "Many lead such decadent and immoral lives that lying, alcohol, nudity, pornography, racism, foul language, premarital sex, homosexuality and everything else are accepted in their society, churches and synagogues."
"What Islam is About," IBTS, pg. 188; target readers: Grades 3-6
On Jewish hostility to Islam: "The reasons for Jewish hostility toward the Muslims of 7th century Medina lies in their general characteristics described in the Koran." Example: "You will find the most implacable of men in their enmity to the faithful are the Jews and the pagans."
"The Messenger of Allah," IQRA, pg. 34; target readers: Grades 6-9