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Massachusetts public school assignment simulates Hajj to Mecca

Massachusetts public school assignment simulates Hajj to Mecca

Separation of church and state apparently doesn’t apply when political correctness is being pushed.

A recently published monograph by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA) offers a sobering example of how biased teaching materials about the Arab-Israeli conflict and the history and practice of Islam were used for years in the curriculum of two public high schools in Newton, Massachusetts.

As we highlighted in a post which reviewed the book, CAMERA’s important new study meticulously analyzes hundreds of highly skewed materials used by the Newton Public Schools system in its two high schools to teach 9th and 10th graders about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Islamic history and culture.

It also documents how a small group of determined Newton parents and residents fought a multi-year battle against the school district to remove the “biased materials promoting a politically-charged agenda”, Case Study: Biased curriculum on Israel and Islam in a Massachusetts school system.

In our prior post, we showed how the 108 page CAMERA paperback offers a “scholarly and frightening account” of the ways in which an astonishingly large amount of “inaccurate and partisan materials” made their way into the Newton Public School curricula.

CAMERA’s short book, as we noted, is an alarming read about how Massachusetts public school students were “propagandized about Islam”.

For years, Newton high schoolers learned from factually-flawed and unvetted, superficial, and non-scholarly publications, and from horribly slanted materials written by virulently anti-Israel activists and radical Islamist apologists.

In the curriculum, they weren’t given any opportunity to critically address the concept of jihad or the problems with Islamic society historically or in many places today, including the inferior status and mistreatment of women and often precarious situation of non-Muslim minorities under Muslim-majority rule:

It’s all very disturbing, in terms of an unwillingness to delve into the topics of Islamic radicalism, or the ways in which extremists use Islamic doctrine to promote totalitarian and misogynistic ideologies that have managed to attract a substantial following.”

But now one person who was involved in the fight to get the City of Newton to release the teaching materials—eventually resorting to several open records requests—is claiming that CAMERA researchers “may have been too generous” in their assessment of it.

Newton, Massachusetts Kids Go on an Imaginary Hajj

Writing last week for the American Thinker, William F. Marshall references his own review of the “raw materials from Newton” to draw further attention to what seems to be a totally inappropriate classroom exercise: having 9th graders in Newton World History classes “go on an imaginary hajj.”

Marshall describes this assignment in his American Thinker op-ed:

In one class assignment [page 216] entitled “Cities: Connecting the Islamic World,” students become pretend Muslims. The teacher writes: “As our concluding project on the Islamic world, you will work in groups to simulate a historical hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca in class. Each of you will be part of a group of Muslim pilgrims from one of the following eight Islamic cities or regions, around a rough time period.” The teacher then lists out eight “Islamic” cities (which includes Jerusalem, by the way). Each group of students is told they will set up a “tent” (presumably imaginary?) which will display newspaper articles the students have written about “their” cities and cultural artifacts they have created to represent their Islamic “hometowns.”

Here’s the actual in-class teaching assignment:

http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Newton-Schools-Islam-Materials-Combined-3.pdf?V=1

It’s important to realize that in flagging this in-class exercise along with a few others (e.g., he mentions a lesson plan on the ‘Spread of Islam’ in which the teacher’s notes indicate that Muslim conquerors acted “decently” to their subjects—see p. 105 at this link), Marshall isn’t really criticizing CAMERA or the monograph’s lead author (Steven Stotsky).

In fact, in his op-ed, Marshall heaps praise on Indoctrinating Our Youth for serving as a “signal flare to parents everywhere.” He calls the book a “fine case study of the process by which our nation’s young adults are propagandized about Islam, and develop a bias against America and Israel” and recommends that it be read

by every parent of high school-aged (and younger) students, high school administrators, and teachers.”

The admiration is mutual.

Waging a Two-Year “Administrative Jihad” Against the City of Newton

In the CAMERA book, Stotsky cites the important role that Judicial Watch (a Washington, D.C.-based conservative, non-partisan foundation promoting government transparency and accountability and where Marshall currently serves as Senior Investigator) played in assisting the parent ad-hoc group in Newton to get access to the materials used to teach their kids.

As noted in the CAMERA monograph, Judicial Watch was approached to assist by Citizens for National Security (CFNS), a nonprofit, non-partisan Florida-based research organization that has successfully exposed biased educational materials in Florida schools and elsewhere across the country, and has had them removed.

Stotsky describes how, frustrated by utterly unresponsive and hostile school officials, the desperate Newton parents contacted CFNS in late 2014. CFNS in turn approached Judicial Watch.

Only in the spring of 2015 did the Newton School district begin to comply with the FOIA request, providing the materials from the 9th grade World History unit on Islam and the 10th grade unit on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Judicial Watch (I spoke with CFNS Director William Saxton this summer who confirmed to me that ‘if not for CFNS and Judicial Watch, Newton school officials would have got away with it’).

As Marshall notes in his op-ed, the school district ended up providing nearly 600 pages worth of materials on the practice and history of Islam (last week Judicial Watch archived all these documents to its online library; they can be viewed at this link).

So the American Thinker op-ed is in no way a reproach of the CAMERA study. But Marshall is right to draw further attention to the classroom exercise involving an imaginary pilgrimage to Mecca. Stotsky does mention it in the monograph, and even writes that

While such exercises may not represent overt indoctrination, they cause discomfort to many as entailing activities that seemingly cross the line into promoting religion in public schools.”

Still, it’s easy to miss that passage (I know I did) given all the many other egregiously inaccurate, highly distorted, and unbalanced teaching items on the subject of Islam that are covered in Indoctrinating Our Youth (that section of the monograph takes up 9 pages and includes in-depth analysis of many of the classroom materials covering Islamic history and culture, as we discussed in our prior post).

Marshall’s op-ed is helpful because it alerts people to this one specific assignment involving the simulated hajj, and the troubling double standards it suggests. He puts this well:

Imagine for a moment if the classroom assignment were to pretend to be part of a group of Christian pilgrims visiting Rome to attend Mass given by the pope in St. Peter’s Square, or a group of orthodox Jews visiting the Wailing Wall to pray, and each student had to write articles and bring artifacts from their “Christian” or “Jewish” city. I suspect Newton’s liberals would be outraged and ACLU lawyers would have a field day on talk shows about “separation of church and state.”

Conclusion

There’s nothing wrong with expanding the knowledge that American youth have about the people of the Muslim and Arab worlds, or with teaching history in a way that gives greater recognition to non-Western areas of the globe.

But taking kids on a virtual hajj in a public school classroom is a bridge too far.

https://sa.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/hajj-information/

Hajj religious pilgrimage to Mecca undertaken each year by 2-3 million people | Credit: U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Saudi Arabia

When it comes to the teaching of Islamic history and culture, it’s hard to think of any public school in-class activity that would be more likely to run roughshod over the separation of church and state—except maybe asking students to memorize and recite lines from the Quran. In the Newton Massachusetts 9th grade World History classes, that was apparently also an included exercise.

Miriam F. Elman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Inaugural Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 60 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Follow her on Twitter @MiriamElman

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Comments

Miriam Elman: Separation of church and state apparently doesn’t apply when political correctness is being pushed.

Separation of church and state doesn’t apply as the curriculum concerns the historical origins and basic beliefs of world’s major religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, which is allowed under the First Amendment.

The Anti-Defamation League and clergy at Newton synagogues Temple Emanuel and Temple Shalom denounced the claims.

    casualobserver in reply to Zachriel. | October 15, 2017 at 10:33 am

    So you are suggesting the celebration of a religious ceremony within the classroom is acceptable? It will be exciting to see an Easter event and a Neilah emulation with the sounding of the shofar. Shall we expect that soon?

      casualobserver: So you are suggesting the celebration of a religious ceremony within the classroom is acceptable?

      It’s being taught in terms of history and culture, not theology. They also learn about how Christians celebrate Easter, about Buddhist meditations, and about Jewish roots in the Middle East.

        casualobserver in reply to Zachriel. | October 15, 2017 at 11:12 am

        You have an interesting way of deflecting. Be specific. How many nock ceremonies tied to which religions are performed in Newton schools? You imply authority on the matter.

          casualobserver: You have an interesting way of deflecting. Be specific. How many nock ceremonies tied to which religions are performed in Newton schools?

          We have cited the Newton Public Schools, as well as Jewish community leaders in Newton. Now, it would behoove you to support the contrary claim.

          casualobserver in reply to casualobserver. | October 15, 2017 at 12:05 pm

          Your lack of specifics settles it. There are no equivalent ceremonies, are there?

          casualobserver: Your lack of specifics settles it.

          We have cited the Newton Public Schools, as well as Jewish community leaders in Newton. Let us know if and when you can provide evidence that these citations are in error.

          Concerning specifics in the original post: The Hajj exercise requires providing major events, literature, monuments, art, food, culture, associated with various cities at various times.

        hrhdhd in reply to Zachriel. | October 15, 2017 at 2:32 pm

        Is that the royal “we”?

      They are not celebrating a religious ceremony. They’re making displays about the cities the “pilgrims” are from. This is an ordinary social studies project, nothing to do with religion. And I’ll bet you they do the same thing with Xian pilgrimages. What else is Canterbury Tales?

    Tom Servo in reply to Zachriel. | October 15, 2017 at 11:57 am

    When you say it doesn’t apply – just imagine how loudly YOU would be screaming if this same school had these same students study the 12 Stations of the Cross.

    Just to prove it, how about that as a compromise? Students would spend a week studying the Hajj, and then they spend Easter Week studying the Stations of the Cross, in the name of Cultural Diversity?

    of course you could never accept that, and that is what puts the lie to your constant Islamic Apologia.

      Tom Servo: just imagine how loudly YOU would be screaming if this same school had these same students study the 12 Stations of the Cross.

      Certainly understanding how and why Christians celebrate Good Friday and Easter should be included. The Stations of the Cross may be one way to study the topic, though not the only way.

      Milhouse in reply to Tom Servo. | October 16, 2017 at 3:05 am

      They’re not studying the Moslem equivalent of the Stations of the Cross. They’re studying historical cities that were Moslem at one point, and imagining people from all those cities meeting while on pilgrimage, just like in Canterbury Tales, and describing their hometowns to each other.

    This is not a separation of church and state issue so much as an autonomy of the student’s beliefs and values. These role-playing exercises are not about the transmission of knowledge at all. They target the brain using areas that tie to emotion and the visual and become activities to promote neural rewiring.

    http://invisibleserfscollar.com/resistance-proof-biosocial-revolution-undisclosed-at-the-neural-level-of-students-minds/ lays out some of these aims and why these imaginary simulations can rewire the brain physiologically.

    There is also a term for ed activities pushing a false narrative for students to adopt. It is called a Guiding Fiction and there are plenty of people who do not want students to have accurate perceptions of Islam and any possible threats to the likelihood of ‘humanity’ learning to act as one big loving family.

4th armored div | October 15, 2017 at 10:31 am

no problem for LibRules to teach NAZIism inits earlier invocation i.e. ISAMism.

The SHARIA long march has begun here, thanks to Barak Hossain Obama and the G-d Damn America ‘church’ he and his family attended for many tears.

    4th armored div: no problem for LibRules to teach NAZIism inits earlier invocation i.e. ISAMism.

    “There’s No Such Thing as Islamophobia.”
    “There’s No Such Thing as Islamophobia.”
    “There’s No Such Thing as Islamophobia.”

      Tom Servo in reply to Zachriel. | October 15, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      “Islamophobia” is a word made up by liberals and progressives as a cover for the terrorist allies they hope to use to overthrow American culture and reshape it to their own fascistic dreams.

      They are the real danger to America – the terrorists are just the pawns of people like Z.

        4th armored div: no problem for LibRules to teach NAZIism inits earlier invocation i.e. ISAMism.

        “There’s No Such Thing as Islamophobia.”
        “There’s No Such Thing as Islamophobia.”
        “There’s No Such Thing as Islamophobia.”

Double standards are the biggest problem here for me, not the lesson.

    Newton Public Schools: The ninth grade history curriculum covers the historical origins and basic beliefs of major world religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. We strive to teach majority and mainstream interpretations of all the religions covered in the ninth grade course, recognizing that all religions have sects and adherents who differ in their interpretations of the faith. Our students learn the origins of each religion and the development of that religion over time; we teach religion from a historical rather than a theological point of view.

This reaction illustrates why the study of religion, including Christianity, is avoided by most schools. While understanding religion is essential to understanding history, the subject is fraught with difficulties, often by Christian teachers either insisting on proselytizing, or Christians objecting to the teaching of other religions.

So the school will do a Palm Sunday service or a Passover meal next, right? Didn’t think so. No. Just the death cult.

” . . . the teacher’s notes indicate that Muslim conquerors acted “decently” to their subjects . . . .”
_________________

LOL.

People conquered by Muslims had a choice: denounce their own religion and convert to Islam, pay a special religious tax to be able to continue practicing their own religion, become a slave, or be executed.

Those who paid the religious tax were called dhimmis. Muslims considered them to be inferior, and they were treated as inferiors.

So Muslims conquerors acted “decently” compared to . . . . what exactly, teacher?

    Milhouse in reply to Observer. | October 16, 2017 at 3:07 am

    How about compared to the Crusaders, who wiped out all infidels, men women and children, without exception, in cold blood.

TeacherinTejas | October 15, 2017 at 5:12 pm

Actually, even more than this crap, which has been reported on for over a decade, did anyone catch the big one last summer, where a public school district in Michigan, near Dearborn, one of those big Muslim enclaves, can’t recall specifically, but they had a special prom FOR MUSLIM GIRLS ONLY!!!!! So they could dress up and have fun, and not violate their faith by being near boys! Really? That one really, really violated the Lemon Test. Would they have the same for Evangelical Christian girls, who didn’t want to dress like sluts with too much make up?

    No, it does not violate the Lemon test (which is ridiculous and will probably soon be dropped anyway). And yes, of course they would do the same for Xians if there were enough demand. What makes you think they wouldn’t?

    TeacherinTejas: they had a special prom FOR MUSLIM GIRLS ONLY!!!!!

    All girls are welcome, regardless of faith, and most of the funds were raised by the girls through various activities, such as selling flowers.

One wonders if the students are told that they’d better not play this “Muslims on Hajj” game when in Saudi Arabia?

It’s not as if it takes much Googling to learn that non-Muslims are not only forbidden to enter the Great Mosque, but forbidden to be anywhere in the city of Mecca.

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