Muslim leaders rip biased Islamic school textbooks

New York Daily News, Apr. 27, 2003

Two prominent New York Muslim leaders have taken to the pulpit to condemn anti-Semitic and anti-Christian textbooks used at local Islamic schools.

After hearing about a March 30 Daily News exposè on the textbooks, Imam Omar Namus of the Islamic Cultural Center on E. 96th St. publicly criticized the books before a gathering of almost 1,000 during Friday prayers at the Osman Bin Affan Mosque on E. 55th St.

“He was talking, passionately, about the Islam I certainly believe in and am in love with,” said Fatima Shama, a Brooklyn public health professional who attended the April 4 prayer session. She said the midtown mosque attracts many young professionals and UN staffers.

“He talked about the article, quoted from it, and specifically debunked the books’ statements,” said Shama.

Namus returned to the subject the next day before a class of about 100 at his own E. 96th St. Islamic Center, the largest in the city.

“This is a disaster,” Namus told The News. “I expect those textbooks will be rewritten.”

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who presides over the Al-Farah Mosque in Tribeca, also criticized the textbooks during Friday prayers before about 300 worshipers.

“I mentioned the existence of books like this being written by people who are misinterpreting the tradition,” Rauf said. “I said they are not theologically correct, ethically correct or politically correct.”

The books, which The News probe found to be in wide use in local Muslim schools, condemn Jews as a people and accuse them of having killed their own prophets, betrayed the Prophet Muhammed and falsified their Scriptures.

One of the most popular books, “What Islam is All About” by Yahiya Emerick, asserts that Jews “subscribe to a belief in racial superiority” and that Christians “worship statues.” Emerick defends his textbooks.

The two Muslim clerics responded immediately after Jewish leaders raised The News article at a Jewish-Muslim dialogue they have taken part in since last September.

“We were really heartened by their response, which was not defensiveness but concern,” said Caroline Katz, director of public relations at the United Jewish Appeal-Federation, a participant in the interfaith sessions.

“It’s taken months of building trust to raise this kind of issue.”


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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday April 28, 2003.
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