Representations of Islam and Arab Societies in Western Secondary Textbooks

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Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the textbooks in Arab and Islamic nation-states have been carefully critiqued for any content that Westerners view as promoting hate or violence against non-Muslims. Very little has been said, however, about the portrayals of Islamic and Arab society in Western textbooks. This report investigates the perspectives and ideologies concerning representations of Islam and Arab societies in textbooks worldwide, and specifically in Western countries' national education systems. Seventy-two textbooks from 15 Western countries and Israel were examined to investigate the included and excluded content related to Islam and Arab societies. This research found that those countries with either an immediate stake in the Middle East (e.g., Israel) or an immediate past stake in the region (e.g., the United Kingdom) were the most likely to include coverage of Islam and Arab societies in secondary textbooks. The major findings of this research, however, are that content related to contemporary Islam and Arab societies in Western secondary-level textbooks is overwhelmingly related to terrorism and terrorists, the Arab/Israeli conflict, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The majority of content related to contemporary Islam and Arab societies represents Muslims and their communities as: 1) socially, politically, and economically repressed; 2) religiously and ideologically oppressed; and 3) both typically and frequently violent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-344
Number of pages33
JournalDigest of Middle East Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014


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