Anti-Arab and Anti-Muslim Bias in Class Materials

Although much of the bias present in the Newton curriculum is against Israel and Jews, there is unacceptable anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias as well. The Verity Educate Report describes numerous examples of such bias under the categories "Infantilizes Arabs" (unfairly treats Arabs as pure victims and/or denies Arabs agency) and "Lacks Arab Perspective" (ignores views of Arabs generally or the Arab populace by limiting analysis to non-Arab perspectives or politically powerful elites).

The following are some of the most egregious examples of anti-Arab/anti-Muslim bias; there are other examples as well. For a more complete list (albeit limited to materials obtained by Verity Educate, which is not a complete summary of materials used by students), see the PENS report Anti-Arab and Anti-Muslim Bias in Newton Public Schools.

  • Reaches of the Empire - This handout, read by some 9th grade students, describes pre-Islamic Arab culture as "barbaric" and implies that all 'higher' Arab culture was appropriated from other civilizations.
  • A Muslim Primer - The chapter read by some 9th grade students, "The Status of Women",  states that Islam allows men to beat their spouses so long as the beating is "light" and not on the face. Although some interpretations of the Koran favor this view, others do not. The implication that all Muslims believe that Islam justifies beating one's spouse is inaccurate, prejudicial and insulting.
Imagine the feelings of a Muslim student whose class is told that their religion excuses spousal abuse, regardless of whether his or her family agrees with that interpretation. The implication that fundamentalist and reactionary interpretations of the Koran represent 'true' Islam is prevalent throughout the chapter.

The Primer also states, contrary to current scholarly opinion, that 2/3 of women in pre-Islamic Arabia were slaves who went about "scantily attired" and "often abused by men". Not only did both sexes dress in robes, going about "scantily attired" in a desert environment would lead to immediate and serious health consequences. The implication in these claims - that absent Islam, Arab society would allow the unfettered abuse of women - is an inherently biased and unfair portrayal of pre-Islamic Arab society.
  • Palestinian National Charter - Some students receive a version which omits Article 2, which states that "Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit". This is a integral part of the world view of both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas; its omission mis-characterizes those entities' positions on a variety of issues.
  • Hamas Covenant - The version of the Hamas covenant distributed to some students is a little-used translation which can hinder comparison of the Covenant with current Hamas policies. It also removes important policy positions with respect to attitudes towards Christians and Jews, towards Israel, and towards the resolution of the conflict with Israel. This makes it impossible for students to understand Hamas policies and the reasons underlying many of its actions.
The elimination of certain passages of the Covenant also removes the historical connection between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and towards texts which influenced it. This makes it difficult if not impossible for students to understand the background of Hamas and its goals, and to reasonably ascertain what actions Hamas may or may not be willing to take given its origins, influences, and positions.
  •  Letter to the Family of the Sniper who Killed David Damelin - The text is completely silent on the position of the sniper and the reason he killed Damelin. Although students are given the assignment to write a letter from what they imagine to be the sniper's point of view, there is no indication that the Damelin's letter was answered by the sniper, and that the Damelins responded with another letter. 
The disregard for objective, historical facts and the requirement that students use their imagination as to 'what might have happened' while neglecting to tell them what actually did happen, illustrates the flabbiness of over-emphasizing what is incorrectly termed "critical thinking" over learning the facts necessary for an informed critical analysis. 

Students cannot think critically about matters about which they are given incomplete or inaccurate information. Hiding important, relevant information from students robs them of the tools needed to make independent judgments instead of merely accepting what they are told by the text, the media, or their peers
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