American School Books Redefine ‘Jihad’ to Exclude Violence

-By Warner Todd Huston

In yet another example of why the west could be too weak to fight the sort of global terrorism that takes the form of Islamofascism, a textbook monitoring group is charging that American textbooks have been cleansed of mentioning the violence inherent in the Islamic “Jihad.” Now, our children will not be taught what “Jihad” truly means, nor that it has been used as an excuse to kill their fellow citizens because our schools have sanitized Islam of all outrage and violence. Will the media follow this story and report that our children are being exposed to Islamic propaganda like this?

According to the New York Examiner, the American Textbook Council reports that textbooks approved for middle and high schools students have caved in to a politically correct cleansing of Islam and dumbed down history critical to a fuller understanding of Muslim history — one that reflects on our own times.

“Textbook editors try to avoid any subject that could turn into a political grenade,” wrote Gilbert Sewall, director of the council, who railed against five popular history texts for “adjust[ing] the definition of jihad or sharia or remov[ing] these words from lessons to avoid inconvenient truths.”

According to Sewall, several new textbooks, such as Houghton Mifflin’s “Across the Centuries,” have gone through an “amazing cultural reorchestration” to erase the history of violence associated with the word “jihad.”

Sewall fears that a political process has replaced an academic process where it concerns the production and approval of our textbooks.

Sewall’s report blames publishing companies for allowing the influence of groups like the California-based Council on Islamic Education to serve throughout the editorial process as “screeners” for textbooks, softening or deleting potentially unflattering topics within the faith.

“Fundamentally I’m worried about dumbing down textbooks,” he said, “by groups that come to state education officials saying we want this and that – and publishers need to find a happy medium.”

Sewall is correct, of course, but it isn’t just a whitewashing of the violence inherent in the history of Islam that has infected our textbooks. For years the books our children are exposed to have seen our own history erased from their pages.

Naturally, Islamic groups decry Sewall’s concerns claiming he is wrong that “jihad” is necessarily defined by violence. In the textbook, “jihad” is defined as a struggle “to do one’s best to resist temptation and overcome evil.”

Islamic scholar Reza Aslan agrees with the definition. “But that is, literally, the translation of jihad,” he said. He added that violence is in the interpretation, not really the definition.

“How you interpret [jihad] is based on whatever your particular ideology, or world viewpoint, or even prejudice is,” Aslan said. “But how you define jihad is set in stone.”

Strictly speaking, Mr. Aslan is correct. However, to leave the definition of jihad at that would be dishonest. After all, jihad has been used to excuse violence for nearly as long as the word has been in existence. Even if, strictly speaking, the word itself does not necessarily portend violence, to ignore that is has been used that way for generations is a misreading of history. And by leaving that real, true history out of their books textbook manufacturers do a disservice to our children.

Further, when violent jihad is the prime motivation in a day when it is used to kill Americans by the thousands is dangerous in the extreme and leaves our future generations vulnerable. To bring our children up to be caught unawares by the truth because of the sanitized, nonsense they are taught is self-defeating and will more easily lead to the success of radical jihadis everywhere.

Another question needs to be raised about this, as well. Where is the national media to highlight this discussion? We need a national debate that has been denied the nation and the media has so far run away as quickly as they can from the vexing and important questions of the fight between civilization and murderous Islamofascism.

Like the dumbing down of our textbooks, the media has added to this national amnesia and put us all in danger.


Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer, has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and is featured on many websites such as,, New Media Journal, Men’s News Daily and the New Media Alliance among many, many others. Additionally, he has been a frequent guest on talk-radio programs to discuss his opinion editorials and current events. He has also written for several history magazines and appears in the new book “Americans on Politics, Policy and Pop Culture” which can be purchased on He is also the owner and operator of Feel free to contact him with any comments or questions : EMAIL Warner Todd Huston

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