Debunking the Rick Perry “Pro-Sharia” School Curriculum Myth
By David Stein
(My absolute final word on the subject — even if Pam Geller calls me “asshat” again — HERE)
As my regular readers (both of ‘em) know, I’m taking a “summer vacation” away from my blog (I think it has something to do with my girlfriend’s desire that I occupy my time with things that actually produce an income). As I technically still consider myself “on vacation,” this post will be a bit looser and more informal than my other pieces (as evidenced by the fact that I’m breaking my rule of never writing in the first-person). Hell, I might not even spell-check it as rigorously as I usually do. Sue me; I’m on vacation.
Also, as my regular readers know, there is no single subject to which I have devoted more time than Muslim terror. I take pride in having had my stories carried on pretty much every anti-Islamist website around, from FrontPageMag and Atlas Shrugs, to Steven Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism, Jerusalem Pulse Radio, Moonbattery, WorldNetDaily, NewsReal Blog, Islamist Watch, Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum, The Blaze, HotAir.com, Right Pundits, Creeping Sharia, Bare Naked Islam, Michelle Malkin’s site, etc., etc., etc.
Nevertheless, I still fully expect to be called a “dhimmi” by one or two of you after you read this post.
Salon.com recently pulled a neat little trick, one that is currently paying great dividends The liberal mega-site recently ran a piece that essentially accuses Governor Rick Perry of being a “pro-Sharia candidate” (complete with a ridiculously crude photoshopped image of Perry standing next to a Muslim crescent). Of course, the title of the piece, “Rick Perry: The Pro-Sharia Candidate?” ends with a question mark. Ha ha! It’s not an accusation – it’s just a question! Aren’t we clever, Salon.com.
And, of course, the author presents nothing to suggest that the answer to that question is yes.
Unless, of course, you read the following paragraph uncritically:
Perry is a friend of the Aga Khan, the religious leader of the Ismailis, a sect of Shia Islam that claims a reported 15 to 20 million adherents worldwide. Sprouting from that friendship are at least two cooperation agreements between the state of Texas and Ismaili institutions, including a far-reaching program to educate Texas schoolchildren about Islam. That’s a partnership that has already prompted a bit of grumbling in far-right corners of the blogosphere and could conceivably become a primary issue if, as expected, Perry enters the presidential race.
And grumbling there has been! This, from Pamela Geller:
Perry has been sucked into the propaganda vortex, and is now wielding his enormous power to influence changes in the schoolrooms and in the curricula to reflect a sharia compliant version of Islam. He is a friend of the Aga Khan, the multimillionaire head of the Ismailis, a Shi’ite sect of Islam that today proclaims its nonviolence but in ages past was the sect that gave rise to the Assassins. Perry has concluded at least two cooperation agreements between the state of Texas and the Ismailis, including a comprehensive program to feed children in Texas public schools and taqiyya nonsense about how Islam is a religion of peace.
And where does Ms. Geller link to back up her claim? Salon! Okay, do you see the humor here? Pamela Geller is relying on SALON! Salon – one of the most Islam-friendly, Muslim-huggin’, “Ground Zero Mosque”-embracing sites on the ‘net – a site that DETESTS Pamela Geller and rips her at every opportunity – has now become Ms. Geller’s source for the “truth” about Rick Perry.
A word of advice, just between me and my two readers: Salon.com NEVER has the best interests of conservatives at heart. If they’re warning us about a “pro-Sharia” Republican, it’s not because they actually want to warn us about a pro-Sharia Republican. More likely, they want to damage a man who has a decent chance of beating Obama.
Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it only a year-and-a-half ago that we conservatives were shouting “Read the bill! Read the bill!” in the faces of Democrat lawmakers who brazenly admitted that they hadn’t actually bothered to read the Obamacare bill they were passing?
Uh…just a though: How about READING the curriculum that resulted from the Perry/Khan partnership?
And read it I did. In fact, I did more than that. I tracked down the guy who wrote it and interviewed him.
More on that in a moment.
First, who IS this “Aga Khan” fellow? The worst that Geller can say is that, in the past (the very distant past, by the way – the 11th Century, to be exact), the Ismaili Muslims (the sect led by Aga Khan) “gave rise to the Assassins!” Yep, and in the 14th Century the Vatican was forcing Jews to convert or flee Spain.
But back to the present, ‘kay?
These days, Aga Khan and the Ismailis are seen by other Muslims as friends of the U.S. and Israel, and they are often persecuted. They reject burqas and gender apartheid, as well.
David Horowitz and FrontPageMag held a symposium in 2010 on whether there is such a thing as “moderate Islam.” Read the following exchange between Dr. Timothy Furnish (mahdiwatch.org), and the eminent Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch:
Furnish: I find myself in the curious (and somewhat uncomfortable) position of disagreeing with my friend Robert Spencer, for whom I have the utmost respect and with whom I almost always totally agree. However, on this issue of whether moderate Islam exists, I think Robert may be missing something. He is exactly right that Sunni Islam–whence comes directly Salafism, Wahhabism and jihadism–promotes violence against non-Muslims in order to make Islam paramount over the entire planet. I have no quarrel with that stance. But I would argue that this is largely because within this majority branch of Islam the only acceptable exegetical paradigm regarding the Qur’an is a literalist one: and of course when passages such as “behead the unbeliever” [Suras 47:3 and 8:12] are read literally the good Muslim had better reach for his sword–or be rightly accused of infidelity to Allah’s Word.
However, perhaps because Robert is so well-versed in the theology of Islam, as opposed to the historical record of how that religious theory has been acted out on the stage of history, he seems to overlook the key fact on the ground that certain minorities within Islam have developed a non-literalist, even allegorical, approach to reading the Qur’an. Foremost among these moderates are the Isma`ilis, the Sevener Shi`is, whose global head is the philanthropical Aga Khan. Isma’ilis may number only in the tens of millions (out of the total Muslim community of some 1.3 billion, second only to Christianity’s 2+ billion), but they do exist and they define, for example, jihad not as killing or conquering unbelievers, but as economic development and charity work.
Spencer: In all this my friend Timothy Furnish, whose work I admire, is entirely correct.
With all great respect to Pamela Geller, I consider Robert Spencer to be THE foremost authority on who is, and who isn’t, a terrorist or a sponsor and supporter of terrorism. If Spencer agrees that the Ismailis are philanthropical and nonviolent, I’ll take his word for it.
Although maybe I’m just blind to Mr. Spencer’s “dhimmitude.”
It should be noted that Perry’s friendship with Khan did not deter the Israelis from presenting him with the Defender of Jerusalem Award.
Yes, yes, that’s all well and good. But I can hear my two readers saying, “what about that PRO-SHARIA CURRICULUM?” (and I literally CAN hear them saying that, as my girlfriend and my mom are here in the room with me). After all, the Aga Khan may be as nonviolent as Gandhi on valium, but if he and Governor Perry (or the people who work for Perry) DID collaborate on a pro-Sharia propaganda curriculum, that’s an indelible black mark on the governor’s record.
Here is an overview of the curriculum, as presented on the website of the Muslim Histories and Culture Project (this is the site to which Salon links):
What is the Muslim Histories and Culture Project (MHCP)?
The Muslim Histories and Cultures Project was born out of discussions between His Highness The Aga Khan and Texas Governor Rick Perry during the Summer 2002, when The Aga Khan was in Houston for the dedication of a new Ismaili Center. Both His Highness and Governor Perry agreed on the need for Texans to have a greater understanding of Islamic culture, and subsequently brought UT-Austin President Larry Faulkner into the discussions. Located in the state capital, Faulkner’s campus is well positioned to accomplish these goals. A series of meetings followed, with the project ultimately finding a home in UT-Austin’s College of Liberal Arts, under the guidance of Dean Richard W. Lariviere, in association with UT Liberal Arts (UT-LA), the college’s teacher preparation program.
In April 2004, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) and UT-Austin finalized a grant proposal that created the partnership that became known as the Muslim Histories and Cultures Program (MHC). Much has happened since the inception of the partnership. Creation and implementation of a model was of prime importance. MHC recruited and directly trained 80 teachers affecting approximately 15,150 students of World History and World Geography in ten key Texas districts during the two sessions conducted in 2005 and 2006. The purpose is two-fold 1) to fulfill Governor Rick Perry’s desire to better educate Texas teachers on Muslim topics and 2) to train teachers to use a cultural lens approach to understanding other cultures. Governor Perry was instrumental in getting this program off the ground.
In other words, if there is anything foul in this program, we have every right to place the blame squarely on Governor Perry; his hands were all over this thing.
Much of the curriculum centers on very dry materials, presented with no editorializing – historical timelines, glossaries, the basic tenets of Islam (presented without either endorsement and praise, or denunciation and criticism), etc. Of interest to us, however, is the lesson plan that deals with Islam and the West, past and present. This is the lesson plan that mentions Sharia, al-Qaeda, Israel, Hamas, etc.
The lesson plan was written by Ronald Wiltse. Mr. Wiltse is a retired history teacher in San Antonio. He graduated from Pepperdine University in 1966, and received his MA from Middlebury College in 1982. For several decades, he taught world history at Edison High School, in San Antonio.
He is a Christian, and an ardent and vocal supporter of Israel.
Mr. Wiltse’s passion is world history. He has his own website, worldhistoryslideshows.com, where he creates customized lesson plans, covering ALL aspects of world history, for home schoolers and other educators.
Mr. Wiltse takes his profession very seriously. He explained to me that in 2009, when he heard that the Muslim Histories and Culture Project (MHCP) was looking for teachers, he applied, and he submitted his lesson plan about Islam and the West for consideration for official use in the program. He was accepted, as was his lesson plan.
As he explained to me in our telephone interview, even though the Aga Khan foundation was essentially paying for everything, they never attempted to exert any influence over the materials used in the curriculum. The fact that Wiltse’s lesson plan was blatantly pro-Israel was NEVER a concern. It was accepted and used exactly as it was submitted, with no changes.
Wiltse told me that, if anything, his main problem (when initially writing the lesson plan) was to try to scale back his pro-Zionism, so that the lesson would not come off as preachy or propagandistic (as I said, he takes his job as a teacher very seriously, and, as a fellow historian, I agree that the classroom is no place for propaganda, from any perspective).
I had the benefit of listening to the audio of a speech about Islam that Mr. Wiltse gave at his church retreat in 2009. This man is a huge supporter of the Jewish state, and a huge foe of Islamist terror and hate. And this is, I believe, reflected in his lesson plan.
As he told me in a follow-up email after our talk, “I consider myself a non-Jewish Zionist (not the kind motivated by some interpretation of the Book of Revelation). It seems to me that Zionists are wise not to trust Christian/Islamic/secular governments. You never know when anti-Semitism in some form or other will raise its ugly head. Perhaps sometime in the (distant?) future that danger will disappear, but probably not anytime soon. Until at least then, Jews need a trustworthy place to live in or turn to when needed.”
The entire lesson plan can be read HERE. I believe Mr. Wiltse went out of his way to be balanced, but (and this is a big but) without EVER, not even once, advocating Sharia, denigrating Israel, or describing Islam as a “religion of peace.” I’m sorry, Ms. Geller, but he just didn’t do that.
Here are some choice excerpts (I have chosen to highlight several of his words and sentences in bold. The all-caps in parentheses are mine):
(START OF EXCERPTS)
Because Islamic society is in a different state of development than Western society, conflicts naturally arise.
1. Countries of Western Civilization have secular governments, which means great toleration of cultural and religious differences.
2. Countries of Islamic Civilization for the most part either have religiously dominated governments or demands to make them more religious, which mean less toleration of cultural and religious differences.
3. Muslims often lack respect for Western traditions and points of view. The Muslim relationship to the West is colored by the belief that Western beliefs [whether Christian or atheist] are defective and therefore inferior to Islam.
From its early days, Islam reacted aggressively toward its civilized neighbors the Byzantines and the West. Muslim attacks against the West can be viewed as occurring in three waves:
1. The earliest wave broke against the Iberian Peninsula and across the Mediterranean. That finally ended in 1492 with the expulsion of the last Muslim power from the Iberian Peninsula.
2. The second wave occurred when Mongols attacked eastern Europe in the mid-1200s and converted to Islam ca. 1292. This wave ended in the 1500s with the reassertion of Russian rule.
3. The third wave built up when the Ottoman Turks, converted earlier to Islam, began to spread into southeast Europe.
a. Ottoman armies threatened Vienna in 1529 and 1683.
Modernity developed in the West and made the West so powerful that any civilization that did not imitate the West in this regard was at a extreme disadvantage. Modernism featured three characteristics:
1. High levels of technology, integrated into society, along with modern science.
2. The creation of much wealth, which, with technology, makes the state more powerful militarily.
3. An openness (in its most developed form called the Open Society by Karl Popper), which features tolerance, pluralism, and has a secular governance.
The failure of Islam to adopt modern ways and adapt them to Islamic values, put Islam at a great disadvantage when dealing with the West.
While Westerners studied Islamic culture, Muslims showed almost no interest in Western culture, remaining ignorant of modernity and its impact.
Muslims distinguish between modernization and Westernization primarily in that Westernization adds equal status for women.
Wiltse approvingly quotes from a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Speaking Truth to Muslim Power,” by former CIA officer Reuel Marc Gerecht: “The Egyptian press has never been as free as when the British ruled over the Nile valley.”
(WILTSE’S ENTIRE SEGMENT ON ISRAEL):
The conflict continues because the West, and the United States specifically, support Israel (an outpost of Western Civilization surrounded by Islamic Civilization), which Muslims generally dislike or hate.
Islamic enmity toward Israel is complicated, but hatred of Jews and Israel can be traced at least to the success of Nazi anti-Jewish propaganda starting in 1933.
A small 1800s movement, Zionism, began seeking a Jewish-controlled state. After rejecting the island of Madagascar, Zionists settled on Palestine, the historic homeland of Jews until they were chased away by the Roman government in AD 70. At the time, Palestine was in the (Turkish Islamic) Ottoman Empire. The movement was not popular among European Jews, who had in the 1800s became increasingly accepted by fellow Europeans.
Since the end of World War One Palestine had been under the control of Great Britain, who at first welcomed the hardworking Jewish settlers. They made the most of the harsh conditions, bringing economic success to an area that had for a very long time been poor. Arab natives also welcomed the newcomers. But as the number of Jewish settlers increased and their economic success contrasted sharply with the economic backwardness of the Palestinian Arabs, the Arab attitude began to change.
The Holocaust convinced the survivors that they couldn’t trust non-Jews of Europe and more Jewish refugees began to flow into Palestine. The Arabs became alarmed (the arrival of many newcomers often upsets oldtimers). The British tried to block the new immigrants, but gave up in 1948. At that point Jewish leaders declared the creation of the state of Israel, a democratic state (in a region without democratic states). It was also a Western society in an Islamic region. Jewish citizens formed the majority, with a large minority of Muslims.
Immediately, all its Arab neighbors declared war on Israel. As a result of this war, the territory of Israel expanded somewhat, and many Arab citizens of Israel fled to a small corner of Israel called the Gaza Strip. The Arab states refused to admit these refugees, preferring them to stay there as a testimony to the evil of the Jewish state. They are still there. These Arabs began calling themselves Palestinians and demanding a state of their own.
Widespread Arab hatred of Jews (not just Israeli Jews) is fueled by lies spread by Arab media. An example is the belief that 9/11 was caused by Jews, who supposedly even warned fellow Jews working in the twin towers not to go to work that day.
Some Middle Eastern Islamic organizations are devoted to destroying Israel.
a. Al Fatah and Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
b. Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Hezbollah (Arabic: ‘party of God’) was founded in Lebanon in 1982, when Israel, for security purposes, occupied southern Lebanon. It wanted Israel out of Lebanon, a goal accomplished. It became powerful in the government of Lebanon. One of its goals is the destruction of Israel.
Fatah is a Palestinian Sunni secular political movement that lost control of the Gaza Strip due to its corruption. Its major enemy is Israel. It currently controls the West Bank.
Hamas is a radical Palestinian Sunni religious terrorist movement, opposed to the corruption within Fatah. Its major enemy is Israel. It currently controls the Gaza Strip.
Al-Qaeda represents both an internal and an external danger. Under the leadership of Osama bin Laden, it seeks to change the government of Saudi Arabia to a more conservative one and engage in violent activities against the United States and other countries.
The Taliban represents perhaps the first significant danger to the West, as they move into Pakistan and threaten the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. This could far surpass any threat presented so far by Al-Qaeda.
(IN THE KIND OF PARAGRAPH ONE WOULD NEVER EXPECT TO FIND IN A MUSLIM-FINANCED CURRICULUM, WILTSE SOMEWHAT GENTLY SUGGESTS THAT JUST BECAUSE THE PALESTINIANS GAVE THEMSELVES A NAME AND DECLARED THEMSELVES A “PEOPLE,” THEY’RE NOT NECESSARILY ENTITLED TO THEIR OWN STATE):
There are two issues here. First, creating a concept that gives a group of people a name: every named group represents such a construct. It’s interesting, for instance, to see how the British colonists in North America (excluding those that came later to be called Canadians) came to see themselves as a group and therefore needing a name–Americans. “Palestinian” is merely one of the newest such conceptualizations. Second, the idea that every group that so identifies itself with a name should have its own government if it wants, can be at least partly traced back to Woodrow Wilson’s pernicious idea of “self-determination” that has encouraged so much divisiveness since (his Secretary of State warned him against announcing support for this concept). Of course that is not necessarily an argument against the formation of a Palestinian state, only that one should not assume that every named group should have its own government.
Wiltse condemns “the present regime in Iran, with its ruling clerics, its executions for blasphemy, its consecrated assassins,” adding “the theocracy (religious government) of Iran wants to export its ideas….Wahabbi influence fires terrorist acts against the United States and Europe. Shiite-controlled Iran finances and enervates many actions against Israel.”
In the eyes of Muslims, various explanations have been put forward for the decline of Islamic power relative to other, especially Western, power:
1. The Mongol incursions
2. Turkish Muslims weakening Arab Muslims.
3. Arab Muslims weakening Turkish Muslims.
4. Western Imperialism
5. The United States
6. The Jews
a. Nazi dissemination of anti-Semitic ideas influenced and continues to influence Middle-Eastern Muslims.
b. The victory of young Israel over five Arab states in 1948 stunned Arabs.
7. Islamic conservatives, who impede the move to modernity.
8. Islamic liberals, who impede the move back to the past.
a. The arch-enemy is the Turkish secularizer Kemal Atatürk, the Father of modern Turkey, who secularized the remains of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, eliminating Shari‘a law from the Turkish constitution and secularizing the new Turkish government.
Wahhabis such as al Qaeda are enemies not only of Western nations. The USA looms so large in their eyes because of its power. Even Muslim-friendly governments such as France and Britain are targets of Wahhabi hatred. They hate all forms of Islam that deviate from their beliefs.
It is the position in this outline that the problems Islamic Civilization has vis-a-vis the West is due to its failure to adopt modernity with its secular, tolerant, and pluralistic stance….Hatred of Israel and the West (especially the USA) colors Middle-Eastern Islamic views of conflict and incites conflict.
Islamic Civilization faced a new challenge with the arrival of Western explorers and expansionists with little success. At about the same time the West began to generate great power vis-a-vis other civilizations of the world because of the Western Renaissance and the subsequent development of modernization. To this increased power Islamic Civilization has so far failed to find an adequate response. Its challenge today remains the same (this is typical of civilizations in decline–they face the same challenges over and over): meet the power of the West by secularizing and modernizing, or by finding some other successful response to Western influence. (Empirically, a study of history shows that trying to return to a previously successful past has never before worked.)
It is difficult to separate Islam the religion from Islam the civilization, but those parts of Islam (the civilization) that have achieved a measure of success–such as Turkey and Indonesia–are exactly those regions where modernization has been to a degree accomplished–whatever the cost to the religion (none, little, or great, depending on one’s point of view). Whatever disruption the conservative terrorists accomplish, their ultimate goals, if the past is any guide, will not be achieved by such activities.
(WILTSE THEN POSES THESE VERY REASONABLE STUDY QUESTIONS FOR STUDENTS):
Would secularization and modernization solve Islam’s problems without damage to the Islamic faith?
Did secularization and modernization in the West damage Christianity?
How does fantasy in Muslims’ beliefs about the causes of their problems hurt Islam?
Does understanding Islam’s dilemma help in evaluating and reacting to Islamic terrorism?
(AND FINALLY, HE CLOSES BY QUOTING AT LENGTH THE PREVIOUSLY CITED WALL STREET JOURNAL OP-ED):
Al Qaeda is certainly not a mainstream Muslim group — if it were, we would have had far more terrorist attacks since 9/11. But the ideology that produced al Qaeda isn’t a rivulet in contemporary Muslim thought. It is a wide and deep river. The Obama administration does both Muslims and non-Muslims an enormous disservice by pretending otherwise.
Theologically, Muslims are neither fragile nor frivolous. They have not become suicide bombers because non-Muslims have said something unkind; they have not refrained from becoming holy warriors because Westerners avoided the word ‘Islamic’ in describing Osama bin Laden and his allies. Having an American president who had a Muslim father, carries the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, and wants to engage the Muslim world in a spirit of ‘mutual respect’ isn’t a ‘game changer.’ This hypothesis trivializes Islamic history and the continuing appeal of religious militancy. To not talk about Islam when analyzing al Qaeda is like talking about the Crusades without mentioning Christianity.
(END OF EXCERPTS)
And we’re upset that students in Texas are reading this…uh…why?
I’m not claiming that Mr. Wiltse’s lesson plan is perfect. Nor am I saying that Governor Perry doesn’t have legitimate problems that reasonable people will argue about in the months to come.
I came back from my blog-vacation for one reason, and one reason only: to kill the “Aga Khan/Rick Perry pro-Sharia school curriculum” myth.
You may leave your comments calling me a “dhimmi” in the comments section below.