On Saturday, June 2, 2001 The Canadian Society of Muslims Insha Allah will be holding our 34th Milad-un-Nabi conference celebrating the Anniversary of the birth of our beloved Prophet, p.b.u.h. As a part of our program we plan to give those attending, both Muslim and non-Muslim, our report on school textbook issues in order to discuss a new book that is to be published on World Religions. It contains a 68-page chapter on Islam and it includes a section entitled "Cultural Impact -- Muslims in Canada" which refers to the Canadian Society of Muslims and that it was founded by Dr. M. Qadeer Baig, a University of Toronto professor in Islamic studies. It goes on to say that "overall, Dr. Baig dedicated his life to teaching his community humility and justice . . . he taught justice by leading a successful campaign to remove discriminatory material about Islam from Ontario school textbooks in the 1970s."
To give some background information, here are a couple of edited excerpts from newspaper clippings: Toronto Star June 14, 1974 -- "More than 700 Muslims met yesterday to protest what they call the Ontario government's 'prejudice and arrogance' in continuing to use school textbooks that Muslims feel make derogatory references to the Islamic religion and the Prophet Muhammad . . . More than 3,000 of the province's 50,000 Muslims have already signed a petition protesting the references in the school books that they claim give a distorted picture of Muslim tradition." (This petition was sent to the Ministry of Education and was also filed, as a complaint, with the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva.) "An example of the offending passage: "If it suited his purpose, he (Muhammad) could be cruel perhaps even treacherous . . . " "Other newspapers and media also covered the protest rally.
Then also according to The Toronto Star, on Monday, Feb. 28, 1977, Dr. Baig was able to tell the "300 Muslims attending the Celebration of the Prophet Muhammad's, 1458th birthday that the Education Minister had ordered seven books withdrawn from the Ministry's approved list of school textbooks . . . He said he expects the Ministry to withdraw a few more textbooks from its approval list . . . The Society sent a delegation to predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East to tell the government and academic leaders there of their dispute . . . Some of the government leaders expressed their concern to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Premier William Davis, Baig said."
According to the Globe and Mail, June 14, 1976: "The Canadian Society of Muslims has accused the Ontario government of ignorance, blindness and self-centredness for its handling what it calls anti-Islamic bias in textbooks . . . The Society's Secretary said that a report [on the Image of Islam] was presented to the Ministry in May 1975, pointing out passages in certain textbooks [11 books] which were derogatory or inaccurate or otherwise biassed against the Islamic religion." The Society had also lodged a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission as well as with the office of the Ontario Ombudsman and got no redress from either of them.
As a consequence of this struggle, the Ministry of Education finally decided that in the future, before allowing any books to be accepted for insertion on the Ministry's list of recommended textbooks (Circular 14), The Canadian Society of Muslims will be given the opportunity to do a review beforehand and correct any objectionable content. Accordingly a new book on World Religion which has already been mentioned is currently in the process of being written by a local Ontario author. It is to be published by a well-known Publisher and is scheduled to be made available to Ontario schools for the next academic year (this September).
Thus, The Canadian Society of Muslims has had the opportunity to review this upcoming book thoroughly. We conducted three revisions, and we covered many points that were within a wider spectrum. They ranged from the typical kind of proof-reading errors such as grammar, spelling, etc. to the more serious and crucial errors of content. For example, the objectionable passages contained errors in incorrect statements of facts and historical background, as well indications of bias, stereotyping, discrimination, and express or implied prejudice, misrepresentation, innuendo, and even distortion of the Islamic tradition and the way of life. Here is a sample of the extent of our coverage:
This is a copy of our last letter to the author:
Here is our last revision pages 1 - end. We cannot emphasize enough that we have not been frivolous or superficial with our comments. We really do mean them! That's why you see us repeating points over and over again. This has not been an exercise in editing and script writing for us, for we have been telling you mostly the basics about our religion. Believe it or not minor edits have been ignored so that we can concentrate solely on the task at hand. And there were a number of edits that were ignored, so don't think that we are speaking willy nilly. We recommend that you CAREFULLY go through all our comments and adjust your manuscript accordingly. There may be consequences for you and your publisher if you do not. Since this is supposed to be the last edit, we will be unable to see if you have complied with them (until publication). For this reason we are warning you right now and rather strongly to pay attention!Here is his reply:
Thank you for your work. I will certainly take your words to heart.Here is a letter we wrote to his Publisher:
We are the Canadian Society of Muslims, and we have been asked by a [name of the author is here] to act as a mentor on the Islamic religion for a chapter in his upcoming textbook, which is to be published by [your company] on World Religions. We understand it was [your] requirement that he enlist the services of a mentor for the purposes of advising him on his chapter on Islam. We have played that role and have gone through three very extensive revisions (i.e., there were a minimum of 235 points for 68 pages in the last revision alone and of these 235 points, 114 were of a crucial nature.) We are quite concerned that the book could go to the printers without full compliance on [the author's] part however.We are looking forward to the Muslim community's wholehearted support in the way of Allah for this good cause.
Now that we have concluded our assignment as 'religious mentors,' would you kindly let us know as to what exactly you expect from us under the circumstances. For example do you require a reporting letter, a letter of approval, a conditional letter of approval, or a letter of rejection from us? In the previous two revisions, [the author] had made very conscientious efforts to comply with our recommendations, but unfortunately many of the recommendations were completely ignored. They were very major in our eyes however.
We are just as eager as you are to avoid the difficulties and the problems which date back to the 1970s when The Canadian Society of Muslims had to go through a very strenuous campaign to have the bias, prejudice and distortion of Islamic teachings removed from the prescribed list of recommended high school textbooks. We need not remind you that your company was also involved as publishers of at least one of the objectionable books back then. So now we are very appreciative of your initiative to try for accuracy and to eliminate objectionable material before a book can go to press. We plan to hold a public meeting one the 2nd of June this year in conjunction with the celebration of the birthday of our holy Prophet pbuh. Our published program for this event includes: "Report on Textbook Issues". We sincerely hope with your and [the author's] co-operation, we will be in the position to give our Muslim community a good report.
May Allah bless you.
Syed Mumtaz Ali
President, The Canadian Society of Muslims
P.S. In order to give you a better idea
and a fuller coverage of the first campaign (i.e. under Dr. Baig's leadership)
and the second (i.e. the present ongoing campaign), we intend to put on
our website some relevant documents giving the details of the important
aspects of this textbook campaign.
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