My Photo
Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

American madrasahs

Before the 9/11 attacks, few Americans outside of specialists in education or international affairs had heard the word madrasah. The word comes from the Arabic word for "school," but in the post=9/11 world the word acquired a new and sinister meaning.

In oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia - where most of the 9/11 hijackers came from, incidentally - donations from wealthy sheikh funded the establishment of Islamic schools around the country. It was the way the wealthy gave back to the poor in a country with no tax-supported education system. In a Muslin version of noblesse oblige, wealthy (and often progressive) Saudis established the schools and then turned their attention to other matters, believing their duties as a benevolent ruling class had been fulfilled.

What they didn't stick around to witness was that the teachers given charge of young Muslims education were an increasingly radical group. Along with lessons in the Quran and the Islamic version of the three R's, young Saudis were being indoctrinated in a virulent version of radical Islam with a decidedly anti-Western slant. While the wealthy ruling class in Saudi Arabia moved toward modernizing their country, a generation of young men were being trained to reject all things modern and Western.

That indoctrination culminated on Sept. 11, 2002, in the wreckage and death of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

OK. The history lesson is over. Time to turn our attention to another place and time: America last week.

According to an Associated Press report, Christian evangelicals are being urged to pull their children out of public schools and enroll them in private religious schools. "Homeschoolers avoid harmful school environments where God is mocked, where destructive peer influence is the norm, where drugs, alcohol, promiscuity and homosexuality are promoted," says the California-based Considering Homeschooling Ministry.

In her outstanding book Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, Michelle Goldberg examines the growing influence of radical Christians and their attacks on homosexuality, sex education, the separation of church and state, and education. She provides a quote from Michael Harris, president of the religiously conservative Patrick Henry College, as saying: "If we're going to stop judicial tyranny, I think we need to have a comprehensive plan. ... A comprehensive way of approaching the problem is, we've got to train the next generation."

According to Goldberg's book:

Farris refers to these parents [attending a Christian Home Educators of Colorado conference] and their peers nationwide as the Moses generation, because they have successfully led their children out of the bondage of godless public schools. But permanent exile from the American mainstream was never the goal. As Farris wrote in the book Generation Joshua [named for Moses' military commander who led the Israelites in seizing the holy land], the homeschooling movement "will succeed when our children, the Joshua Generation, engage wholeheartedly in the battle to take back the land."

He admits it's a large task. "The is the land of MTV, Internet porn, abortion, homosexuality, greed, and accomplished selfishness," he observed. Giants stalk America, "giants that live in the fields of law, government, journalism, and history. And we are going to look in depth at the elite colleges and universities of our nation. The enemies of freedom and truth dominate these institutions and thereby dominate our nation."

What Farris wants is a cultural revolution. He's trying to train a generation of leaders, unscathed by secularism, who will gain political power in order to subsume everything - entertainment, law, government, and education - to Christianity, or their version of it.

The generation of Christian homeschooling advocates before people like Farris were far more radical in tone. They spoke of using religious schools to "raise an army for Jesus" who would turn America into a "Christian nation" by force if necessary. That approach scared away more people than it enticed, so today's homeschool advocates have taken a kinder, gentler approach while playing on the fears of public education bringing about the downfall of America and, more importantly for them, the demise of Christianity.

Evangelical Christians bristle when liberals (or even moderates) describe them as America's Taliban. Yet they seem compelled to follow the same path staked out by radical Islam when it comes to indoctrinating future generations in their vision for overthrowing democracy in this country and replacing it with a theocracy.

Sadly, through it's faith-based initiative programs and support of a voucher system that would allow tax dollars to flow into private schools, the Bush Administration is courting voters, but selling out America to the same sort of radicalism that led unerringly down the path to 9/11.