As I wrote a couple of days ago, the Texas State Board of Education was considering a resolution condemning textbooks they perceived as having a pro-Islam, anti-Christian slant. As I also pointed out, this is the very same BoE that has been removing science from the state standards and replacing it with provably wrong ideas: creationism, anti-evolution, downplaying the Big Bang model of the Universe, and so on.
Friday, they voted to pass the resolution. So this fervently fundamentalist majority on the BoE has said they don’t like it when a religion tries to wedge itself into a textbook. As long as it isn’t their religion, of course.
So congratulations, Texas Board of Education, you have once again managed to make yourselves, and, sadly, the rest of America, look foolish in the eyes of the entire world.
The details of the resolution, according to the Houston Chronicle:
The resolution, approved by a 7-6 vote, says that multiple world history textbooks are tainted with views that demonize Christianity and favor Islam. […] The resolution specifically criticizes three high school history textbooks that are no longer approved for use in Texas classrooms. It said the books, published in 1999, devoted many more lines to Islam than Christianity, and it criticized other texts for including “sanitized definitions of ‘jihad’ ” and “patterns of pejoratives towards Christians.”
Oh, please. History textbooks directed at a predominantly Christian market should devote more space to unfamiliar religions and cultures, particularly ones that are having such an impact on current events. It’s called learning about what you don’t already know. And pointing out Christianity’s own flaws and the injustices committed by its adherents isn’t a malicious “pattern of pejoratives” — it’s simple, straight-up historical description. Suck it up. Why is the national textbook market so dependent on the Texas Board of Ed, again?
In related news, the international writers’ organization PEN is speaking out against a disturbing movement within the United Nations — the latest of many such initiatives — to silence criticism of religion:
International PEN and its national centers are extremely concerned about ongoing processes in the United Nations aimed at combating defamation of religions. We are also concerned about an initiative by the UN Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards, established in 2007 by the Islamic Conference (OIC) and a group of African countries, to draft a treaty that would ban religious defamation. Human Rights protect individual human beings, not institutions or religions. Criticism of religions and religious practices must be allowed, in particular when religions are viewed from a political point of view. As organizations representing writers, artists, and journalists of all faiths and none, we warn against any regulations prohibiting criticism of any religion or any set of ideas.
Video of a UN panel discussion on this issue is here, including statements from Wole Soyinka, Ariel Dorfman, Azar Nafisi, and Kwame Anthony Appiah.
To give governments — and school boards — the power to suppress either free religious expression or the free criticism of religion is to set a very dangerous precedent indeed.
(Image via Die Presse)