Textbook of American school in capital seized over ‘smell of racism’

Anjana Sankar
Filed on February 27, 2006

ABU DHABI Close on the heels of the cartoon controversy raging across the Muslim world, it is the turn of an upscale American school in Abu Dhabi to ruffle Muslim sentiments by teaching lessons that allegedly ''smell of racism.''

Over 100 copies of the social studies text book, 'World Cultures' taught to the sixth grade children were confiscated by the Ministry of Education yesterday, for allegedly presenting Islam and the Muslim countries including Gulf states in a negative light while glorifying Israel on the other hand, Khaleej Times has learnt.

It has been accused that chapter 25 of the book running from page 599 to 614 contains a deluge of derogatory remarks against Islam and the Muslim world, for example, dubbing Middle East as one of the most dangerously explosive areas in the world and the Muslim conquest of India as the most bloodiest in the world history, to mention a few.

The sub chapters clubbed under the title 'North Africa and the Middle East' also elaborate on the religion and life-style of Israel with pictures. "Israel is one of a few democracies in North Africa and the Middle East today. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco are all kingdoms; the country of Syria has sponsored terrorism by giving aid to radicals in the Palestine Liberation Organisation, known as the PLO," read excerpts from page 610 of the book, copies of which Khaleej Times possess.

Juma Salami, Assistant Undersecretary to Foreign Private Education said that the book published by Silver Burdett Ginn has a racist tone and is insulting to the country's religion and culture. "It is not a community school and a good number of Muslim and Arab children are studying there. By incorporating the book in the syllabus, the schools have failed to show respect to the religious sentiments of the host country."

Accusing the book of promoting a hate culture, the Asst. Under Secretary said the "World Cultures' is least objective and balanced in its political and social content and hence is unfit to be taught in schools.

"While there are clamour for change in the Middle East, one has to understand that these are the books coming from the so called 'free world'. This is a typical example of how textbooks are used to manipulate the thoughts of young minds," affirmed Juma.

On the question how the text book made it through the approval formalities of the Ministry and education zone, the Asst. Undersecretary held that though the ministry's role cannot be denied, the ultimate responsibility lies with the school to ensure that they respect the sensibilities of the country they are in.

"We will delve into the details of the text and will take appropriate action, including circulating the name of the publisher among all people concerned. The book will be withdrawn from the syllabus, for sure," added Juma.

When this reporter contacted the school, the director said that the school had been following 'World Cultures' for a couple of years and did not face any problems.

"Today, the ministry officials came to our classes and checked the books. They took away all copies as they found contents that were considered inappropriate and insensitive."

"We do our best to follow the ministry guidelines and send the copies of all our books. To the best of my knowledge, this book was also sent for approval. We normally take care to delete materials or replace text books that carry sensitive content. But the the reality is that in a school of this size, there are new books coming in every year, and there are hundreds and thousands of pages to be checked. So chances are there that we might have missed out on something," maintained the school director.

Rigorous Monitoring System

A more rigorous monitoring system to keep an eye on the private schools and the so called embassy schools in the country would be implemented, Dr. Haniff Hassan Al Qassimi, Minister of education has said.

Dr. Haniff noted that the ministry will exercise control over the content that is being taught in the private schools as they are offering their services in the country.

The syllabus followed in each country differs as some incorporate more nationalistic content, while others concentrate on something else. By monitoring the educational content, the aim is to bring the private and embassy schools more closer to the society in which they operate, noted the minister.

"UAE is a multi-cultural society where so many nationalities live in close harmony. This should be reflected in the curriculum taught in the UAE schools, Dr. Haniff told Dubai Television in an interview.

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