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Established in 1990 as the Council on Islamic Education, the Institute on Religion and Civic Values (IRCV) is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to “support and strengthen American public education” by drawing on “civic, ethical, and educational principles in Islam” and applying them “in a manner consonant with U.S. constitutional principles and foundational ideas.” This Institute, which adopted its current name in 2006, focuses especially on how Islam is portrayed in K-12 education, and serves as the leading Islamic voice in the American textbook-vetting arena.
IRCV founder Shabbir Mansuri, a Muslim immigrant from India, claims he was motivated to create his organization because of a negative portrayal of Islam in one of his daughter's schoolbooks. With IRCV, Mansuri serves as a consultant -- vis a vis the manner in which Islam is depicted -- for leading textbook publishers including Houghton Mifflin, Prentice Hall, and Glencoe. According to Diane Ravitch, who was Undersecretary of Education during the George H.W. Bush administration, these publishing houses rely heavily on IRCV's approval of all Islam-related content (see Ravitch’s book, The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn). The Middle East Forum has described IRCV as “a content gatekeeper with virtually unchecked power over publishers.”
Although IRCV professes to "rejec[t] the sanitizing of coverage of historical and contemporary issues," and to eschew "censor[ing] content of any sort," the organization has promoted precisely this agenda apropos the presentation of Islam in K-12 education. In 2009, Fountain Valley, California activists joined forces with ACT! For America (ACT!) protesters to condemn IRCV-derived materials that had been incorporated into local school curricula. According to the critics, these materials sanitized Muslim precepts and Islamic history in a highly inaccurate way. For example, Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt's 2006 publication, World History: Medieval to Early Modern Times, contained the following passage on page 61:
"Muhammad respected Jews and Christians as 'people of the Book' because their holy books taught many of the same ideas that Muhammad taught."
ACT! countered: "The Qur'an refers to Christians and Jews as 'apes,' 'pigs,' 'dogs' and 'worse than cattle.' (Surahs [chapters 2:64; 5:59-60; 7:159-166; 7:176; 25:44.) This, according to what Muslims regard as the word of Allah as revealed to Muhammad, is their belief about the true essence of Jews and Christians."
On page 83 of the same 2006 textbook was this passage:
"Muslims generally practice[d] religious tolerance, or acceptance, with regard to people they conquered. In other words, the Muslims did not ban all religions other than Islam in their lands. Jews and Christians in particular kept many of their rights, since they shared some beliefs with Muslims."
ACT! countered: "The alternatives offered to conquered Christians and Jews are conversion to Islam, or death; they enjoy 'protection' only as they endure humiliation and severely restricted religious and civil rights[.]"
Another book, Houghton Mifflin's seventh-grade text titled Across the Centuries, likewise incorporated IRCV's suggestions in a newly published edition. In its definition of jihad, this book says nothing about violence or the concepts of "holy war" and martyrdom. Rather, it simply describes jihad as "an Islamic term that is often misunderstood," and which "means 'to struggle,' to do one's best to resist temptation and overcome evil."
Prentice Hall, which also collaborates with IRCV, is the publisher of Connections to Today, the most widely used world-history book in the United States. In this text, jihad is defined as an "inner struggle to achieve spiritual peace."
After IRCV protested alleged "errors of fact and interpretation" about Islam in yet another textbook manuscript awaiting publication by Interaction Publishers, the latter agreed to allow IRCV "to revise" that manuscript. The revision incorporated suggestions by Yousef Salem, associate director of the California-based Islamic Education and Information Center, who has praised the Muslim organization Hezbollah while characterizing Israelis as "terrorists."
IRCV maintains a number of noteworthy associations:
In 2000, Shabbir Mansuri and IRCV were given an award for their work by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2001, Mansuri claimed that he was promoting a "bloodless" revolution -- promoting an increased emphasis on other cultures and faiths, including Islam, in American junior-high and high-school classrooms.
(See The Trouble with Textbooks: Distorting History and Religion, by Gary Tobin and Dennis Ybarra).