Students in Texas may be getting a glorified view of Islam, according to some state education leaders who are pushing for a resolution that would denounce social studies textbooks as biased against Christianity.
Though the president of conservative-leaning Texas State Board of Education supports the measure as promoting religious equality in schools, faith leaders and activists have condemned the board's proposal as intolerant and anti-Muslim.
"It's clearly just an attempt to propagandize the state's student population against the faith of Islam," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington D.C.-based Council on Islamic-American Relations. "Somehow they were getting too rosy a picture of Islam."
The board of education is set to vote Friday on the resolution, which was proposed by a one-time board candidate who failed to get elected earlier this year. It charges that "pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias has tainted some past Texas social studies textbooks."
It also refers to the board of education as the "principal democratic check and balance" against "otherwise often-unresponsive editors and unaccountable authors."
But the Texas Freedom Network, a state religion and education watchdog group, said this measure is just another attempt by the hard-right majority to infuse its own religion and politics into the education of millions of school children.
"It's really hard to know if this board will pass something as inflammatory as this," spokesman Dan Quinn said. "I assume it will be close."
Gail Lowe, the governor-appointed president of the board of education, dismissed the criticism that the proposal, which she supports, is anti-Muslim.
"The resolution is not attacking that religious group," she said. "There are some entities that like to stir up controversy even when there isn't any."
Lowe said she hasn't studied the textbooks or the passages called into question by the resolution, which would bear her signature should it pass, but that she intends to before Friday.
The critics, she said, are "unnecessarily worrying."
"It has nothing to do with anyone's personal religious beliefs," she said.
The proposal doesn't say children shouldn't learn about Islam, Lowe noted, just that there should be more emphasis on Christianity to give students a balanced education.
Lowe said she's been told that the textbooks treat other religions, such as Judaism, Confucianism, Sikhism and Buddhism, in the same light as Islam, but only Christianity seems to be demonized. The resolution however, does not mention any other religions besides Islam.
But at a time when anti-Muslim rhetoric seems to have reached fever pitch in the U.S., between the debates over to so-called "Ground Zero mosque" in New York City and a Florida pastor's one-time plan to burn a pile of Korans, Hooper said the board's proposal is just another way to contribute to "today's atmosphere of anti-Muslim hysteria."
"Given the atmosphere today, nothing shocks me but one would hope that cooler heads would prevail here and they would ultimately see it's not in the best interest of Texas or the United States of America to promote anti-Muslim propaganda," he said.
Lowe denied that the Texas school board's actions had anything to do with the current debate over Muslims in America.