The Day of Turkey Past and Albatross Future

For those of us who watched the daily broadcasts on the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran by Iranian extremists in 1979, a scene remains etched upon our minds.  At times during the nearly fifteen months our embassy personnel were held hostage, Islamic fundamentalists paraded on nearby streets, beating themselves about the back and shoulders with chains or cutting their arms with swords in symbolic acts of martyrdom.  

It was difficult for Westerners to understand such acts of self-flagellation.  We could only shake our heads in disbelief as to why one would voluntarily choose to abuse oneself in this manner — attributing such acts as representative of an uneducated society.  Yet, ironically, we remain oblivious to our own acts of self-flagellation, clearly discernible as such to others who, similarly, can only shake their heads in disbelief of such acts.

Last year, just before Thanksgiving, the largest school district in Washington State sent letters to teachers suggesting the upcoming national holiday be viewed as “a time of mourning” for its Native American students.  The letter, from the District Director of Equity, Race & Learning Support, Caprice Hollins, included eleven “myths” about this special day.  While some myths were inconsequential (dispelling the notion mashed potatoes and cranberries were served at the first Thanksgiving), others were quite damning.  One described Pilgrims as “rigid fundamentalists” who ventured to America “fully intending to take the land away from its native inhabitants…a bitter reminder of 500 years of betrayal returned for friendship.”  

Ironically, as the Seattle school district saw a need in its zeal for political correctness to instill in their students a sense of guilt for acts dating back centuries ago, local Seattle Indian tribes were harboring no animosity towards the holiday.  As a Tulalip Tribe spokesman commented at the time, “The spirit of Thanksgiving of people working together to help each other is the spirit I think that needs to grow in this country because this country has gotten very devisive.”

 While one school system sought to traumatize its students with claims of dastardly acts performed centuries ago by “rigid fundamentalist” Pilgrims, another school system refuses to educate its students about dastardly acts actually being conducted today by “rigid fundamentalist” Islamic extremists threatening their very existence.

To Muslims, the word “jihad” has two meanings.  One has a non-violent connotation –i.e., an individual Muslim’s struggle for spiritual perfection.  But the other meaning is violent — i.e., an individual Muslim’s duty to wage holy war against infidels (non-believers).  

In California, to teach students about “jihad,” a third of the schools use a social studies book published by Teachers’ Curriculum Institute.  This book describes “jihad,” as an effort by Muslims “to take up worthy causes, such as funding medical research,” and, at worst, simply Muslims fighting “to protect themselves from those who would do them harm.”  Furthermore, it suggests efforts going beyond non-violence may be justified by Muslim extremists to protect themselves against those “who would do them harm.”  

Again, we see an effort by school districts to impose a sense of guilt upon students, dumbing them down by dismissing a serious Islamic extremist threat as simply “Muslims being Muslims.”  Additionally, while freely critical of Christians torturing Jews during the Crusades to convert them to Christianity, the book says nothing about the past and present persecution of Jews by Muslims.

As US state school systems downplay the threat of Islamic extremism, privately-funded Muslim schools, colleges and mosques — in the US — play up the threat infidels pose to followers of Islam.  Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of the extremist Islamic sect of Wahhabism, has long funded such institutions here to promote this version of Islam.  But none of the books used in these schools advocate peace between Muslims and non-Muslims.  They are, as former-fanatical-Shi’ite-Muslim-turned-Christian-minister Reza Safa says, “full of phrases exalting war, jihad and martyrdom.”  Thus, while our public schools teach students about self-flagellation, guilt and Muslim oppression, privately-funded Muslim schools in the US teach students to view the infidel as their enemy and to accept and tolerate no other religion but Islam for all other religions are false.       

Privately-funded Muslim schools in the US are a breeding ground for a generation of students who will be intolerant of their non-believer American counterparts in public schools — schools which, in turn, are becoming a breeding ground for a generation of American students intolerant of their own forefathers.  Instead of teaching our children about real threats of the present, our school systems are hung up on instilling a sense of guilt in them for harms of the past, imagined or not, but in any event not of their own doing.  As US school districts seek to out-do each other on the political correctness front, educators lose sight of the fact that educating our children includes a responsibility to teach them about real and timely issues critical to their future survival.  

For centuries, an uninhabited South Atlantic island has served as an albatross breeding ground.  Lacking predators, the albatross population has thrived — until recently.  A few years ago, mice made their way to the island.  As albatross chicks became a steady diet for the mice, albatross parents are observed standing idly by, doing nothing to protect their offspring.  Scientists explain, since the parents have never known predators on the island before, they are “ecologically naïve” as to any threat to their existence.  Yet such naivete may ultimately decimate the albatross population.  

We can understand ecological naivete amongst a bird population; it is harder to understand it amongst our educators.  But absent an effort by them to educate our children on the threat posed by Islamic extremism, our children’s future may prove no more promising than that of the albatross.