At the Weekly Standard, Stephen Schwartz writes on recent changes in the ways American textbooks represent Islam:

In the past, American textbooks were prone to two great pitfalls: Either they dealt with Islam superficially or they presented it in the manner preferred and promoted by well-funded defenders of Islamic extremism. A hallmark of that latter view is an emphasis on the unity of Islam, which is portrayed as simple, monolithic, and benign. The wide range of belief and practice between Sunni, Shia, and Sufi Islam, to name only the best-known variations, is downplayed, and the problems of Islam, especially violent jihad, are simply left out. Some of the current efforts at revising textbooks successfully avoid these mistakes.


The new specifications not only broaden the study of Western culture, but also turn attention to the Islamic caliphates and the effects on them of the Mongol invasions. Perhaps teachers will use the Mongol subjugation of Baghdad in 1258 to illustrate how Islam grew from a religious community focused on the core Arab lands to one in which new developments arose within Persian, Turkic, Indian, and other non-Arab cultures. Study of the Ottomans is even more useful for dispelling the erroneous idea that Islam is simply “the Arab religion.”

Read the full post here.