An entire section on Islamic history for most 7th graders currently taught in Tennessee middle schools has been removed from the proposed draft of a new social studies curriculum.
A Tennessee Board of Education curriculum draft for the 7th graders — where world religions are taught — is currently available for public comment online until late-October. Removed was a section entitled “Islamic World, 400 A.D./C.E. - 1500s,” after a summer-long revision process, The Kingsport-Times News reported.
Here are the current sections of the proposed 7th grade social studies standards draft:
A statement emailed to BuzzFeed News from Sara Heyburn, the Tennessee State Board of Education’s executive director, said that reports that the study of Islam has been removed from the draft are "inaccurate," and that Islam will be taught, along with all other world religions.
"However, some of the social studies standards have been adjusted, reorganized and simplified during the standards review process by the team of experienced social studies teachers and educators from across our state that have conducted the review," wrote Heyburn. "This includes revising some standards, changing some section titles, and reorganizing where topics appear."
The review process occurs every six years and the Standards Recommendation Committee will make a recommendation in early 2017, the Kingsport-Times News reported. The new curriculum will not be introduced until the 2018-2019 school year.
Michael Hughes, a Sullivan County Board of Education Chairman in north-east Tennessee, told the paper that the changes may have been because of concerned parents.
“They’re in favor of just (taking it out of the standards). I don’t believe they want it taught at all,” Hughes told the paper.
For years, parents and residents in Tennessee — in addition to other states in the US — have been at odds with Islam being taught in public school curriculums, with residents often claiming that Islamic indoctrination or conversion was afoot.
In December, 2015, many parents were upset in Maury County, Tennessee, when they learned that 7th grade students were taught the Five Pillars of Islam — the basic tenets of the faith. In August of this year, a photo showing children at a mosque in Tennessee in a position of prayer were widely circulated, prompting fears of indoctrination. The photo was not in Tennessee, and has been circulating on anti-Islamic websites since 2011, according to the fact-checking website, Snopes.
So acute was the fear that a school board member in Williamson County, Beth Burgos, introduced a bill that would “prevent pro-Islam, anti-Christian Judeo bias in class instruction,” the Tennessean reported in October 2015. Earlier this year, the state House in Tennessee passed a bill where “schools may not indoctrinate, promote, or show bias to a religion.” The word “promote” was later replaced with “proselytize,” the Tennessean also reported.
According to the The Kingsport-Times News, the removed sections contained many basic and fundamental aspects regarding the foundation, spread and tenants of the world’s second largest religion. Some of the removed material includes “the physical location and features of the Arabian Peninsula to the expansion of Muslim rule and cultural diffusion of Islam and the Arabic language, the origins of Islam and the life and teaching of Muhammad, including the historical connection to Christianity and Judaism,” the article said.
In addition, understanding “the Qur’an and Sunnah, different sections within Islam, the Sunnis and Shi’ites, contributions of Muslim scholars, trade routes of Arab society, art and architecture, including the Taj Mahal,” among other aspects, were also gone with the section.
According to the Tennessee Education Standards Review, which can be accessed online by the public, other aspects of Islam can be found in a section titled “Southwest Asia and North Africa: 400-1500s CE,” and do have some basic information on Islam, but, are under public review and therefore, may not be included.
The public can review the standards and can recommend that the board of education should “Keep it,” “Needs to be reviewed,” or “remove it.”
Talal Ansari is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. His secure PGP fingerprint is 4FEE 894C 8088 7E08 E170 A515 2801 7CC6 95D3 11C2
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