Educators need to teach about Islam

Religious tolerance does not just mean Christianity in the U.S.

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Jacob Knopf/ THE CHIMES

Tim Seeberger, Writer

Recently, the Tennessee State Board of Education decided to change the curriculum standards for World History in regards to the history of Islam. Thanks in part to outside pressure, the board decided to re-evaluate this specific section of the course years ahead of state curriculum evaluations. As Christians, this may seems like a victory because, in effect, more is now sectioned off to teaching Christianity in public schools, but this is a superficial and backwards way of thought. Teaching about Islam is necessary in the public schooling system because it upholds the religious freedom extended to Christianity and combats Islamophobia.

Growing Islamophobia

There is no denying society has an anti-Muslim view in the world today. Since 9/11, the passing of the Patriot Act and the rise of ISIS, more and more people fear people who identify as believers of Islam. In a 2014 Pew Research study, 41 percent of the public surveyed held negative views of Islam. In a 2015 study, Pew found 46 percent of the public surveyed believed that the Islamic religion promotes more violence than other religions.

A clear example of discrimination towards Muslims is in Tennessee’s schooling system. The curriculum for the teachings of Islam was recently rewritten in August to teach less about the peaceful religion. This comes from pressure from places like Williamson County, Tenn., where education board members and parents worried that the curriculum favored Islam too much and did not teach Christianity enough. Furthermore, they wanted to shorten the section for Islam to just one week for sixth and seventh graders.

This problem highlights a bigger fear in America. People are connecting a peaceful religion to an extremist group that has nothing to do with the fundamental values of Islam. Yes, extremist groups like ISIS base their killing upon the Quran, but they completely misinterpret the text. Christians could do the same exact with verses like 1 Peter 2:18 and Ephesians 6:5. If that was the case, the Church would still support slavery.  

Defiance of a Shallow World

Having a section in the curriculum on Islam in schools is important. Christians need to know the beginnings of the Muslim faith because it coincides with the beginnings of Christianity. Having a better understanding of Islam helps Christians understand the starting of their faith better. Second, knowing other religions very well shows that Christians deeply care about other religions enough to study them. It shows earnest qualities in a world of shallowness. It helps in evangelizing, also. It is beneficial to have a foundational knowledge of other faiths in order to relate to them. If someone were to try and evangelize to a Muslim without knowledge of their faith, there is a great potential for disaster in hypothetical conversations.

Shouting from the rooftops Islam is taught too much and not in the context of violence is completely against the fundamentals of Christianity. This is not showing love to those who believe in different faiths. Jesus sat with the sinners rather than the saints in order to understand them better. He did not change a course curriculum to isolate Himself for the rest of the world. Religious freedom does not solely extended to just the Judeo-Christian faith. Religious tolerance means extending this freedom to all religions.

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