And even at its most violent, "jihad" simply is Muslims fighting "to protect themselves from those who would do them harm," says the "History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond" book published by Teachers' Curriculum Institute.
But a parent whose child has been handed the text in a Sacramento district is accusing the publisher of a pro-Muslim bias to the point that Islamic theology has been incorporated into the public school teachings.
"It makes an attempt to seem like an egalitarian world history book, but on closer inspection you find that seven (not all are titled so) of the chapters deal with Islam or Muslim subjects," wrote the parent, whose name was being withheld, in a letter to WND.
Sacramento's students are being taught "jihad" is an effort to convince "others to take up worthy causes."
"The upsetting part is not only do they go into the history (which would be acceptable) but also the teaching of Islam," she said. "This book does not really go into Christianity or the teachings of Christ, nor does it address religious doctrine elsewhere to the degree it does Islam."
She said the book's one page referencing Jews "is only to convey that they were tortured by Crusaders to get them to convert to 'Christianity.' (It fails to mention that the biggest persecutors of Jews throughout history and still today are Arab Muslims). It gives four other one-liner references to the Jews being blamed for the plagues and problems in the land. It does not talk about the Jews as making a significant impact on the culture at large."
"How can the writers of this text get away with this?" she asked.
Bert Bower, founder of TCI, said not only did his company have experts review the book, but the state of California also reviewed it, and has approved it for use in public schools.
He said the company tries to move history out from between the covers of a textbook and into students' minds, and that is how the book was developed.
"Keep in mind when looking at this particular book scholars from all over California (reviewed it)," he said. "We have our own scholars who created the program, California scholars look at the program and makes sure [it] is accurate."
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One of those experts who contributed to the text, according to the American Textbook Council, which released a scathing indictment of the project, is Ayad Al-Qazzaz.
"Al-Qazzaz is a Muslim apologist, a frequent speaker in Northern California school districts promoting Islam and Arab causes," the ATC review said. "Al-Qazzaz also co-wrote AWAIR's 'Arab World Notebook.' AWAIR stands for Arab World and Islamic Resources, an opaque, proselytizing 'non-profit organization' that conducts teacher workshops and sells supplementary materials to schools."
The textbook council, an independent national research group set up in 1989 to review history and social studies texts in public schools, quoted directly from the book to provide evidence of its bias.
The word jihad means "to strive." Jihad represents the human struggle to overcome difficulties and do things that would be pleasing to God. Muslims strive to respond positively to personal difficulties as well as worldly challenges. For instance, they might work to become better people, reform society, or correct injustice.
Jihad has always been an important Islamic concept. One hadith, or account of Muhammad, tells about the prophet's return from a battle. He declared that he and his men had carried out the "lesser jihad," the external struggle against oppression. The "greater jihad," he said, was the fight against evil within oneself. Examples of the greater jihad include working hard for a goal, giving up a bad habit, getting an education, or obeying your parents when you may not want to.
Another hadith says that Muslims should fulfill jihad with the heart, tongue, and hand. Muslims use the heart in their struggle to resist evil. The tongue may convince others to take up worthy causes, such as funding medical research. Hands may perform good works and correct wrongs.
Sometimes, however, jihad becomes a physical struggle. The Quran tells Muslims to fight to protect themselves from those who would do them harm or to right a terrible wrong. Early Muslims considered their efforts to protect their territory and extend their rule over other regions to be a form of jihad. However, the Quran forbade Muslims to force others to convert to Islam. So, non-Muslims who came under Muslim rule were allowed to practice their faiths."
The council, in describing the text as a book written by "dictation from Islamic sources," said such passages "should put speculation to rest about what California's seventh-grade students may learn about Islam. At the very least, the passages are incomplete. More precisely, they are dishonest."
Such passages fail to explain "the essentially religious nature of the subject," the council said. "It ignores any challenge to international security and western-style law. The treatment is lyrical and loaded, echoing the language recommended by Islamist consultants."
The Sacramento parent said she became suspicious because of the school's decision to send a copy of the book home with her son and he started describing how it would teach students to write in Arabic.
A review left her even more worried. "I was disturbed probably the greatest portion of this book is about Islam. It goes into the doctrine of Islam in detail," she said. "There are 35 chapters. Out of those, I counted at least seven [that focus] on Islam."
She said she looked at the publication's list of contributors, and found the name of Ayad Al-Qazzaz, whom she'd had herself for a class on Middle Eastern studies.
"That was a big flag for me," she said.
WND previously has reported on the influence of Islamic "consultants" on public school texts in the United States, as well as how other schools have included the "Five Pillars of Islam" among their required courses.
The parent said she just wanted people to know of the agenda being taught.
"After seeing Al-Qazzaz as one of the main contributors I began to put two and two together
about the extra book coming home only in this class and I questioned where this book's money source came from I still do not know," she said.
"I am very troubled that in the name of tolerance and educating American children about the Muslim empire in history they get away with giving beginning Islamic teaching which may cause many to perhaps one day become Muslims," she said. "My son tells me that the students will even be using calligraphy to copy parts of the Quran in Arabic as an enrichment activity."
The ATC's second excerpt from the book dealt with the definition of sharia law.
"For example, the Quran tells women to 'not display their beauty.' For this reason, Muslim women usually wear different forms of modest dress. Most women cover their arms and legs. Many also wear scarves over the hair," the book said.
Bower said Christianity is addressed in chapters 3, 6, 31 and 32 of the book, including descriptions of the Crusades, while the company's website shows an entire unit called, "The Rise of Islam," including chapters on the Arabian peninsula, "The Prophet Muhammad," "The Teachings of Islam," "Contributions of Muslims to World Civilizations," and "From the Crusades to the Rise of New Muslim Empires."
The recommendations included that "students learn about the beliefs and practices of Islam" and "learn about the life of Muhammad and the rise and expansion of Muslim rule."
Bower said the textbook is the answer to the demands in today's society for a "multicultural" education, and he said whenever some historical subjects are taught, there's always controversy. He cited the internment of Japanese people in the United States during World War II as an example.
His company's book, he said, "really gives students multiple perspectives."
But he also said he wasn't aware of any agenda held by any contributors to the book, including Al-Qazzaz. "I'll have to look into that," he said.
He said about one-third of California's districts use the book, and so do thousands of other districts across the country.
If a parent objects to the agenda in the book, he said, "it's up to them to make a decision, do they want to have the kids opt out of this part. It's their local decision to do so. But in this age isn't it important for us, for our students to know as much about as many different religions as possible?"
Others may agree that students need to know about the world in which they live, but the TCI book is not the right one to teach them.
According to a report from William J. Bennetta at the Textbook League, officials in Scottsdale, Ariz., tested the book, and ultimately rejected it after parents rallied to complain.
"Students who took a 7th-grade social students course
were subject to gross, prolonged indoctrination in Islam," he wrote.
"Much of the indoctrination was delivered in a corrupt school book titled 'History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond,' produced by [TCI]," he said. "The writers of [the book], by relentlessly presenting Muslim religious tales and religious beliefs as matters of historical fact, have striven hard to induce students to embrace Islam."
He wrote that the indoctrination is "concentrated in chapters 8 and 9. This material consists overwhelmingly of Islamic religious propaganda. It includes blatant preaching as well as deceptive claims and extensive fraudulent narratives dealing with the beginnings of Islam, the life of Muhammad, and the inception of the Quran. These claims and narratives are disguised as accounts of history. They actually are restatements of Muslim fables and superstitions."
Bennetta also noted that the book exhibits contempt for Judaism and Christianity. "For example, In a passage in chapter 9, the TCI writers convey the lesson that a religious view held by Muslims is important, but views held by Jews and Christians are unworthy of consideration."
Even the level of scholarly work is deficient, he continued. "They teach, in chapter 9, that if someone encounters some antiquated hearsay and jots it down, the hearsay becomes 'written evidence' of historical happenings."
In an Internet posting about the Scottsdale use of the text, Janie White, a parent in the district, reported the book included "fake history" along with "Islamic religious proselytizing and indoctrination techniques."
Officials with the Sacramento school district declined to respond to WND requests for comment about the book and its use.
Al-Qazzaz, who teaches at Cal State-Sacramento, has explained in other Internet postings "greater jihad" is to become better Muslims and "lesser jihad" is to fight against Islam's enemies.