Bias against Arabs and Muslims

Give section numbers in Verity Educate report

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 only as victims and/or denies Arabs agency) and "Lacks Arab Perspective" (ignores views of Arabs generally or the Arab populace by limiting its 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 many other examples as well. For a more detailed list of items analyzed in the Verity Educate Report, see the PENS compilation Anti-Arab and Anti-Muslim Bias in Newton Class Materials.

Reaches of the Empire

This text, used 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

This book, written by a Christian pastor with no academic credentials regarding the study of Islam, contains numerous inaccuracies. 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 told that their religion excuses spousal abuse, regardless of whether their family agrees. 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 were "often abused by men". Not only did both sexes dress in robes, the obvious observation that going about "scantily attired" in a desert environment would lead to serious health problems is ignored. 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.

Prominent Voices on the One and Two-State Solution

Of the nine "prominent voices" described in this handout, only two are Israeli or Palestinian Arabs. Of those two, one is deceased and the other is a political radical who lives in the U.S. The article is almost totally devoid of the voices of the article's subjects. Is it really the case that the authors were unable to find even one "prominent" Arab living in the area at issue who would state their opinion?

The implication that not a single person among the 7.5 million Arabs living in Israel or the disputed territories is qualified enough to be included in the article is insulting and unfair, and exemplifies how some Western 'activists' silence and disparage the very people they claim to help.

Letter to the Family of the Sniper who Killed David Damelin

This 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 in fact answered by the sniper, that the Damelins responded with another letter. The result is that students are informed of only a fraction of what actually happened, while at the same time being told to use creative thinking to write about what might have happened.

That the voice of a Palestinian Arab who was one of the instigators of the situation described is disregarded entirely, indicates to students - if they ever find out about the response - that Arabs cannot explain their own motivations and are not worthy of being included even in a depiction of events in which played an essential role.

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 a text, the media, or teachers.