- Monday, August 26, 2002
As the National Education Association guidelines put it, "We still believe that all people are innocent until solid, reliable evidence from legal authorities proves otherwise." I thought the videotape of Osama bin Laden and his cohorts celebrating their success was evidence enough-you know, the tape where they say that the attacks on America went even better than they'd expected.
Then there's the program put together by scholars at my alma mater Brown University that will be taught at more than one thousand high schools. It's called "Responding to Terrorism: Challenges for Democracy." Student readings emphasize that Islam "is a religion that values family and tolerance," and that "throughout much of history, Muslims have lived peacefully with followers of other religions." They did-but only after they conquered the Middle East, North Africa, and much of Europe in holy wars.
The "Islam is peaceful" message was recently reinforced at the University of North Carolina, when freshmen were assigned selections of the Qur'án-peaceful selections, that is. The parts about how it is the duty of Muslims to kill Jews, Christians, and other "infidels"-the parts about holy wars that are of vital importance in light of September 11-were somehow left out.
The problem is not so much that kids are being taught about Islam or even asked to read the Qur'án-though I have my objections to that. The problem is that there is no balance in those teachings. In the name of tolerance, Islam is being whitewashed; the distinctions between Islam and Western culture are being systematically scrubbed away.
Ravi Zacharias warns of the dangers of misapplied "tolerance" that trashes the truth. As he puts it, "Truth cannot be sacrificed at the altar of pretended tolerance." "Real tolerance," he reminds us, "is deference to all ideas, not indifference to the truth."
Ravi has got it exactly right. The differences between Islam and Christianity are real and deep. They constitute the basis of the war we are in-and the wars that Muslims are currently fighting against dozens of other countries around the globe.
Sadly, the "tolerance" lessons appear to be paying off: The New York Times reports that University of North Carolina students who read the assigned segments from the Qur'án were "surprised to find parallels between [Islam] and Christianity." And the September 11 lessons directed at grade schoolers, with their stern warnings regarding how kids ought to and ought not to think about the terror attacks, may well coerce them into silence.
As we approach the first, sad anniversary of September 11, I hope you will look into what your school is teaching your kids. Are they being given hefty helpings of what's passed off as "tolerance" these days-the notion that we're not allowed to judge anyone, even people who blow up buildings? If so, feed your kids a healthy serving of the truth: There are objective standards of right and wrong, and true tolerance is treating our neighbors with Christ-like charity-even if we disagree with their beliefs.
For further reading and information:
- Timothy George, Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?: Understanding the Difference between Christianity and Islam (Zondervan, 2002). Read the text of a speech on the same topic that Dr. George delivered to the Prison Fellowship Board of Directors.
- BreakPoint commentary no. 020801, "Tarheel Qur'án: A Responsible Approach?"
- Ellen Sorokin, "NEA Plan for 9/11 Not Backed By Teachers," The Washington Times, 20 August 2002.
- Read more about "Responding to Terrorism: Challenges for Democracy," the course produced by Brown University.
Jennifer Medina, "Colleges and High Schools to Observe 9/11," The New York Times, 24 July 2002. (Free registration required.)
- Kate Zernike, "Assigned Reading on Koran in Chapel Hill Raises Hackles," The New York Times, 19 August 2002. (Free registration required.)
- J. A. Hanson, "Comprehending Jihad: Globalization and Retaliation-and How to Avoid Both," BreakPoint Online, 5 August 2002.
- Charles Colson, When Night Fell on a Different World: How Now Shall We Live?, 2001.
- Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live without God? (Word Books, 1994).
- The "BreakPoint College Survival Kit," which includes books and other resources packaged in a canvas bookbag, will help students prepare themselves for engaging in the worldview battle.
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