Teaching Muslim Values in Public Schools Rejected in California

Teaching Muslim Values in Public Schools Rejected in California
A report titled "Confronting Fear," about Islamophobia in the United States released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), is seen at their headquarters in Washington, DC, June 20, 2016. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Matthew Vadum

The terrorism-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations recently suffered a rare defeat in its long-running push to mainstream Muslim values in U.S. schools, when a federal lawsuit was settled. The group agreed to end its program in San Diego schools, which critics say pressured students to accept Islam or risk being labeled “Islamophobic.”

CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator in 2007 in an alleged criminal conspiracy to support both Hamas and the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. In 2014, the United Arab Emirates designated CAIR a terrorist organization.

CAIR, which touts itself as a Muslim civil-rights organization, claimed with scant proof that President Donald Trump’s election caused a wave of attacks on Muslim students in San Diego schools and throughout the country. The radical Southern Poverty Law Center, which made similar assertions, dubbed it “The Trump Effect.”

In May 2017, the Rancho Santa Fe, California-based Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF) sued on behalf of five families. The legal complaint asserted that the San Diego Unified School District’s “anti-Islamophobia initiative,” launched to fight purported anti-Muslim bullying, was unconstitutional.

Attorney Charles LiMandri of FCDF said that, in reality, it was non-Muslims who ended up being the victims of discrimination in the school district.

“CAIR’s insinuation that there are hordes of MAGA hat-wearing students prowling the schools and terrorizing Muslim students is a study in mass deception,” LiMandri said.

“Under the guise of promoting inclusivity, CAIR had unfettered power to target conservative Christian students and smear them as ‘Islamophobic’ if they don’t accept Islam. More broadly, the liberal school board ran roughshod over the First Amendment by empowering CAIR to indoctrinate impressionable children. We applaud our clients for standing up and fighting back.”

Charles LiMandri. (courtesy Charles LiMandri)
Charles LiMandri. (courtesy Charles LiMandri)
The school district’s own data, presented at a court hearing in July 2018, showed only two incidents in 2016 in which Muslim students were bullied, compared to 11 incidents for Jewish students, KPBS reported at the time.

Despite the paucity of evidence, district lawyer Michael Sullivan said the schools nonetheless needed to take precautions to safeguard students.

“They don’t have to wait until a kid is run over by a bus to address issues with the crosswalk,” he said, adding problems could ensue if the district were to sever ties with CAIR. “It would be inappropriate for the district to exclude CAIR, or any other organization, based on its religious beliefs.”

CAIR and its allies have been remarkably successful in promoting Islam in schools.

In the overwhelmingly Christian state of Tennessee, CAIR has demanded that public school students be taught that the Islamic prophet Muhammad is the one and only true messenger of God. CAIR and similar groups are pushing public school systems across the United States to promote pro-Islamic messages in their lesson plans.

Much of the nation’s education establishment has already adopted the agenda of CAIR, providing resources to combat “Islamophobia.”

Examples of programs include the Bridge Initiative at the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University; the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project at the University of California–Berkeley; and the University of Pittsburgh-based three-state Consortium for Educational Resources on Islamic Studies (CERIS). A teacher’s guide, “Islam in Asia: People, Practices, Tradition,” was put out jointly by the University of Washington and the Seattle Times.

CAIR remains very active in the Golden State, with its California branch sponsoring “Muslim Day at the Capitol” in Sacramento on April 22, which the organization describes as “the nation’s largest Muslim civic engagement event.” Participants are encouraged to urge state lawmakers to pass Assembly Bill 331, a bill that would require high schools, including charter schools, to be instructed in so-called ethnic studies, a radical discipline that looks at America through the eyes of supposedly oppressed minorities.