Inappropriate Study of Religious Dogma

9th Grade Test on Islam (excerpt)

23. Which of the following is in the correct chronological order?

a. Muslims take control of Mecca, Islamic Empire reaches to Spain, Muhammad marries Khadijah, Muhammad dies.

b. birth of Muhammad, Muhammad's first revelation, Muhammad marries Khadijah, Muslims take control of Spain

c. Hagar searches for water, Bedouin idols destroyed, Muhammad's final revelation, split between Shii and Sunni Muslims

d. Hegira, Khadijah dies, Angel Gabriel speaks to Muhammad, Muhammad begins to preach in public

24. Which of the following groups ended the Abbassid caliphate?

a. the Fatimids

b. the Seliuk Turks

c. the Ottomans

d. the Mongols

25. Islam spread to places such as West Africa and Southeast Asia because

a. the Abbasids conquered those lands

b. Muslim traders traveled there

c. Muslims fought major battles there

d. escaped Umayyad princes set up dynasties there

Short Answer

26. Answer the following in a clear, organized fashion. Be sure that you answer the question and provide specific details to support your argument

a. Describe three steps of the hajj, referring specifically to each step's symbolic meaning for Muslims.

b. Why did Islam spread so rapidly in the 100+.years after the death of Mohammed? Describe at least three factors that allowed the Islamic Empire to expand so quickly in the centuries following its founding.

The above page from a 9th grade exam illustrates how students are inappropriately and unconstitutionally required to study religious dogma. Students are tested on purely religious questions such as whether Mohammad married his wife Khadijah before or after he received his first revelation, or whether Khadijah died before or after "Angel Gabriel speaks to Muhammad". Students are also tested on their knowledge of the steps to the Haj - a religious pilgrimage - and their "symbolic meaning".

It is appropriate for students to learn that the Haj is a religious pilgrimage undertaken by Muslims, and that it is required by those able to complete the journey. However, how the Haj is performed - i.e. the day-to-day order of ceremonies performed during the pilgrimage - is of purely religious interest. Just as it would be inappropriate to require students to memorize the devotions along the (Christian) Stations of the Cross, or memorize the (Jewish) Thirteen Attributes of God, students should not be required to become familiar with acts pilgrims perform during this religious journey.

There is no connection between the steps of the Haj and world history. Likewise, there is no possible reason why public school students should be required to learn whether Muhammad's wife Khadija died before or after "Angel Gabriel" purportedly spoke with Muhammad.

Other material claims, subtly or less so, that one religion is "better" than the other. The narrator in the film "The Hajj" states that he finds the lack of "priests and rabbis" in Islam attractive and that "As a Muslim, God is as near as the veins in my neck", implying that adherents to other religions lack such closeness.

No questions are asked, either in the film or on the worksheet used by students, why Islamic religious figures (purportedly) do not inhibit adherent's closeness with God whereas "priests and rabbis" (purportedly) do.

The fact that school administrators, who have been notified of these issues, allow these First Amendment violations to continue illustrates their abdication from enforcing any meaningful educational standards.

Below are files containing the test from which the page at the beginning of this section was taken. Two other files containing articles used in 9th grade World History classes are also below.

One article, A World Where Womanhood Reigns Supreme, claims without support that Western women are "enslave[d] to the male gaze" and that "the element of choice had been taken out of [the lives of Western women]" because they (purportedly) cannot choose to cover in the Muslim tradition. Although the article is used for discussion purposes and not as factual 'truth', there is no countervailing material about the fact that many Muslim women are forced to adhere to religious restrictions on clothing against their will, or that it is veiled women, not Western women, who are less free.

The other article, Reaches of the Empire, glorifies the conquest of the Persian and Byzantium empires and the near-conquest of Europe. It describes Arab culture as "pious but barbaric" and extols the "especially liberal" treatment of Christians and Jews under Arab regimes. While it is true that in general that Jews were treated better under Islam than under Christianity, both Jews and Christians were often subject to numerous restrictions and onerous taxes - facts not mentioned in the text. A notation on a timeline makes the text's bias clear: "1291 - Crusaders finally driven out of Holy Land". This overt bias is inappropriate in a text for students of any age.