from The Textbook Letter, Volume 12, Number 1

Analyzing crank literature aimed at educators

INTO ISLAM: An Introduction to the History of Islam
2004. 107 pages. ISBN: 1-57336-074-0. Interaction Publishers, Inc. (DBA "Interact"),
5937 Darwin Court, Suite 106, Carlsbad, California 92008.

Another Manual, Another Fraud

William J. Bennetta

In 1991 Interaction Publishers, Inc., doing business under the name "Interact," published a curriculum manual called ISLAM: A Simulation of Islamic History and Culture, 610-1100 and began to sell it to history teachers in grades 6 through 12. The manual was a fraud. It was a religious-indoctrination device, contrived by Interact and two Muslim organizations, and the "history" that it purveyed was both false and vicious.

Interact now is marketing a new curriculum manual -- titled INTO ISLAM: An Introduction to the History of Islam -- that is a derivative of ISLAM: A Simulation. The new manual is aimed at the same audience of teachers, is freighted with material recycled from ISLAM: A Simulation, and is another fraud.

Some Comparisons

In a review that I wrote for The Textbook Letter [see note 1, below], I advanced this description of Interact's earlier product:

ISLAM: A Simulation has no educational purpose, and it can serve no educational function. From beginning to end, it is nothing but a Muslim religious publication, produced by writers who seek to exploit classroom teachers for propagating Islam.

From beginning to end, ISLAM: A Simulation directs teachers to deceive their students and to boost Islam by disseminating lies and by falsifying history. From beginning to end, ISLAM: A Simulation requires teachers to indoctrinate their students by feeding them servings of "information" in which historical facts are insidiously intermixed with Muslim myths and Muslim woo-woo. From beginning to end, ISLAM: A Simulation directs teachers to present facts, myths and woo-woo as equivalent, equipotent items. From beginning to end, ISLAM: A Simulation requires teachers and students alike to abandon rationality, to shun analytical thinking, and to embrace the view that any claim about anything -- no matter how fatuous the claim may be -- must be accepted as true.

And near the end of my report I said:

Page for page and ounce for ounce, ISLAM: A Simulation is the most malignant product that I have seen during all my years as a reviewer . . . . I assert that any teacher who would have anything to do with ISLAM: A Simulation should be fired before the day is out. ISLAM: A Simulation has no place in any legitimate school, and neither does any teacher who is so ignorant and so stupid that he cannot recognize Interact's manual of rubbish for what it is.

I now recommend the speedy sacking of any teacher who is dumb enough to be gulled by Interact's new creation, INTO ISLAM. In INTO ISLAM, Interact's writers again show themselves to be charlatans, and they again mount sustained displays of trickery. In INTO ISLAM they again disseminate fake "information," they again practice brazen deceit by intermixing historical facts with Muslim myths and Muslim woo-woo, and they again strive to turn teachers into agents who will promote Islam in history classes and will subject students to Islamic indoctrination.

The most noteworthy difference between INTO ISLAM and ISLAM: A Simulation is this: The lesson plans in INTO ISLAM are not rigged around simulations. The core of ISLAM: A Simulation was a series of lessons that required the teacher to preach Muslim doctrines and required the students to "simulate becoming Muslims" by wearing "Islamic" clothing, by parroting Muslim superstitions as if those superstitions were facts, by making religious banners, by fashioning prayer rugs, and so forth. The lessons that are provided to the teacher in INTO ISLAM don't require that students pretend to be Muslims, so many of these lessons are not as outrageous or as blatantly crazy as were the analogous lessons in ISLAM: A Simulation.

Even so, INTO ISLAM contains plenty of Muslim preaching and religious propaganda, much of which appears in "essays" that the teacher must distribute to students. Essay #2, for example, abounds with propaganda that incorporates various claims derived from the Muslim foundation myth (i.e., the Muslim myth that purportedly describes how Islam originated). Interact's writers falsely present those claims -- which include statements about Muhammad's early life [note 2] and about his legendary initial meeting with the angel Gabriel -- as historical facts. Indeed, Essay #2 imparts to students the "fact" that Gabriel told Muhammad to warn the inhabitants of Mecca against the worshiping of idols, the "fact" that Muhammad shared with other people the revelations that Gabriel had provided, and the "fact" that Muhammad continued to receive supernatural revelations till he died, in 632. In Essay #2, Interact's writers demonstrate anew their devotion to the indoctrination strategy that pervaded ISLAM: A Simulation. Their strategy is to turn students into true believers by turning them into fools -- fools who will believe anything, will never ask for evidence, and will not apprehend the difference between a statement that can be tested against evidence and a statement that cannot.

The writers dispense more propaganda in Essay #3, and some of it is exorbitantly phony. For example:

[Muhammad's] words established the Muslim belief that all Arabs are descended from one famous monotheistic ancestor, Abraham. According to Muslim tradition, Abraham's son Ismail had 12 sons. These sons founded 12 tribes of desert nomads. Thus, according to the teachings of Islam, all Arabs really belong to one family.

Now here is the truth: No matter what "words" Muhammad may have uttered, the "Muslim belief" which the Interact writers have described was imported into Islam from Judaism. It revolves around two figures -- Abraham (or Avraham) and Ishmael (or Yishmael) -- who had appeared, many centuries before Muhammad's time, in the Hebrew Bible's Book of Genesis. The name Ismail is a transliteration of an Arabic variant of Ishmael, but we needn't dwell on this quirk of nomenclature. What is important to us here is that Interact's writers have entirely concealed the literary history of the figures Abraham and Ismail, and they have created the false impression that the story of Abraham, Ismail and Ismail's twelve sons was originated by Muhammad. (Incidentally: While Muslims may like to say that Abraham was "monotheistic," he was not. The Book of Genesis doesn't portray Abraham as a monotheist and doesn't provide support for attempts to transform him into one. The Hebrew Bible's first suggestions of monotheism occur in the Book of Exodus, not in the Book of Genesis, and they are linked to the character Moses.)

In their next paragraph the Interact writers retail the Muslim belief that "Abraham rebuilt the Ka'bah," but they refuse to touch this obvious question: If Abraham rebuilt it, what person had erected it in the first place? The answer, according to Muslim lore, is that the Ka'bah had been erected by the first man -- Adam. But Adam is another figure whom the Muslims have borrowed from the myths in the Hebrew Bible's Book of Genesis, and Interact's writers have flatly refused to mention him.

By their meretricious handling of Abraham and their sinking of Adam, Interact's writers have shown that they are unwilling to acknowledge Islam's mythological debt to Judaism. Still, these writers want to say something which will loosely connect Islam to Judaism -- and to Christianity too -- because Muslim propagandists who operate in the United States invariably try to project the impression that Islam is cordial to those two other religions. Here is what the Interact writers bring forth:

Abraham is also a patriarch in Judaism and Christianity. . . . All three religions share some common history and beliefs and honor the same prophets.

Those statements cry out for amplification and explanation, but the writers provide none at all. They plainly do not want students to know that the mythic roots of Islam, like the mythic roots of Christianity, lie in Judaism; so they refuse to explicate how the similarities among those religions arose.

Later in Essay #3, the Interact writers uncork these "facts" about the inception of the Koran:

[Muhammad] spoke the words of his revelations and others wrote down what he said. His collected revelations form the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam.

That image of Muhammad declaiming "his revelations" to a crew of stenographers is another item taken from the Muslim foundation myth, and we've seen it before -- in ISLAM: A Simulation, in Houghton Mifflin's middle-school text Across the Centuries [note 3], and in other publications that boost Islam and indoctrinate students. Across the Centuries even declares that Muhammad's companions recited his utterances "in his presence" (presumably so that he could check and verify them), and that "By the time of his death, all the revelations had been compiled into one collection, the Qur'an."

All that stuff is superstition and fable. There is no evidence that any Koranic scripture existed, in any form, until decades after Muhammad died, and the earliest known versions of the Koran differ from the canonical version that Muslims use today. The canonical version arose through a process of literary evolution, during which the Koran's structure and its language and even its alphabet were altered [note 4].

Near the end of Essay #3, Interact's writers deliver a double-whammy. They again present as historical fact an untestable claim about supernatural "revelations," and they combine that claim with a slippery misrepresentation of Ramadan:

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar. It was at that time of year that Prophet Muhammad received his first revelations from God.

That reference to Ramadan as a "time of year" will surely lead students to infer that Ramadan occurs at some fixed time within the period that Americans call a year. The students' inference will be false. The period that Americans call a year is measured by the Gregorian calendar, has 365¼ days, and is a close approximation of the solar year -- the period in which Earth completes one revolution around the Sun. The Muslims' lunar year, however, is not a close approximation of the solar year: It is about eleven days shorter. As a result, the Muslims' year continually drifts backward with respect to the solar year. In any given solar year, Ramadan occurs earlier than it did in the previous solar year -- and as the solar years roll by, Ramadan slowly migrates backward through the four seasons.

A Common Tactic

In their previous manual, ISLAM: A Simulation, the Interact writers purported to describe Islam and the Arabic world during the time from Muhammad's day until 1100. In INTO ISLAM, they purport to tell about Islam and the Arabic world during the time from Muhammad's day until 1258. So the writers again have chosen to deal with a span of only a few centuries -- a few centuries from the period when Islamic civilization was flourishing and the Arabic world was enjoying its heyday. Muslim propagandists commonly favor this tactic, because it enables them to engage in gross distortion: They can tell about the intellectual vivacity that was a feature of Islamic societies in medieval times, but they can avoid acknowledging that the Arabic world later stagnated, lost its intellectual vigor, rejected natural science, fell far behind the West in intellectual affairs, and eventually produced the societies that characterize the Arabic Middle East today -- societies that are sumps of institutionalized ignorance and backwardness [note 5].

Accordingly, INTO ISLAM has lessons that require students to learn and tell about medieval Muslim achievements in science, in mathematics, in medicine and in other fields -- but nowhere is there any lesson that will help students to understand that Islam today is associated not with intellectual inquiry and intellectual innovation but with intellectual stasis and the repression of intellectual endeavors [note 6]. Nowhere in INTO ISLAM is there a lesson that will equip students to comprehend what Tariq Ali meant when, in his recent book The Clash of Fundamentalisms [note 7], he wrote:

What I want to know is why there is never a single Muslim name when the Nobel Prizes for Physics and Chemistry are announced each year. Are intelligence, talent and inspiration absent from Muslim genes? They never were in the past. What explains the rigor mortis?

The subtitle of INTO ISLAM declares that this product is An Introduction to the History of Islam. It is no such thing. It is a few centuries' worth of grotesque pseudohistory, intended for delivery to students by incompetent and gullible teachers.


  1. See "Page for Page, This Is the Most Malignant Product That I've Seen During All My Years as a Reviewer" in TTL, Vol. 11, No. 4. [return to text]

  2. The Muslim foundation myth notwithstanding, practically nothing is known about Muhammad's life before he set himself up as a prophet. Even the claim that he was born and reared in Mecca is unsupported by evidence. [return to text]

  3. See the article "Houghton Mifflin's Islamic Connection" in TTL, Vol. 11, No. 3. [return to text]

  4. See The Origins of the Koran: Classic Essays on Islam's Holy Book, a collection of scholarly articles edited by Ibn Warraq. It was published in 1998 by Prometheus Books (Amherst, New York). See also Toby Lester's article "What Is the Koran?" in The Atlantic Monthly, January 1999. See also "Radical New Views of Islam and the Origins of the Koran," by Alexander Stille, in The New York Times, 2 March 2002. [return to text]

  5. The rejection of natural science was an especially potent factor in the Islamic world's decline. See the chapter "Social and Cultural Barriers" in Bernard Lewis's book What Went Wrong? (issued by Oxford University Press (New York City) in 2002). [return to text]

  6. See Barbara Crossette's article "Study Warns of Stagnation in Arab Societies" in The New York Times, 2 July 2002. See also: "Rote Schooling in Saudi Arabia Leaves Students Ill-Suited to Work," by Howard Schneider, in The Washington Post, 12 June 1999; and "A Grim Arab Survey of Rights and Education," by the Associated Press, in The New York Times, 21 October 2003. [return to text]

  7. The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity, published in 2002 by Verso (New York City). [return to text]

William J. Bennetta is a professional editor, a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, the president of The Textbook League, and the editor of The Textbook Letter. He writes often about the propagation of quackery, false "science" and false "history" in schoolbooks.


Interact has been acquired by Highsmith Inc. (Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin), and Interact's products, including INTO ISLAM, are now being promoted to educators by Highsmith. Highsmith 's principal business is the marketing of furniture and other kinds of equipment to libraries and schools.


Pointer return to top
Pointer go to Home Page
Pointer read the Index List, which shows all the textbooks, curriculum manuals,
     videos and other items that are considered on this Web site
Pointer contact William J. Bennetta by e-mail