Last week it was announced that Simon and Schuster will publish a line of Muslim-themed books for children called Salaam Reads.
The undertaking appears to have been prompted by one Zareem Jaffery [pictured right], an executive editor at the publishing house, who says the “aim with the Salaam Reads imprint is in part to provide fun and compelling books for Muslim children” that will also be “entertaining and enriching for a larger non-Muslim audience.” She convinced Simon and Schuster that the time was right to get with this program, the program being to make Muslim children feel at home by reading about Muslim children just like themselves and to make familiar, and palatable, Muslim religious observances and beliefs to non-Muslim children, by showing how kids of four different “faith traditions” — “Musa, Moises, Mo, and Kevin” (can you spot the Catholic?) – become friends, pal around together, and find out about each other’s faiths, without anything to trouble their carefree, innocent friendship as each learns, in turn, about the religious practices and beliefs of each of the three other members of the group.
All this sweetness and light, however, will almost certainly be based on a lie, or rather on a series of lies. Of course, none of the books has yet been published, but we can confidently predict what in them will not be included, and what will. Just imagine, for a minute, how the two most important Muslim holidays, Eid Al-Adha and Eid Al-Fitr, are likely to be presented by Salaam Reads. At both of these feasts, an animal — a lamb, a goat, a cow, a camel — is sacrificed, its throat slit, and then it is left to bleed to death, often in full view of smiling and excited onlookers. You can find photographs of such scenes online, at Muslim websites. If the aim of Salaam Reads is to convey a truthful picture of Islam, then it ought to show how almost all Muslims practice it, and that includes the way those animals are killed, which is part of the violence that suffuses Islam. But do you think those responsible for Salaam Reads will provide any such pictures or photographs of these animals, dying or dead? When it comes to sharing knowledge of this aspect of the Muslim faith, Salaam Reads will not only avoid showing the practice, but in the text will provide only a vague brusque admission that “animals are sacrificed” at the two Eids, while carefully not hinting at how.
Ramadan will undoubtedly be given a lot of attention in the Salaam Reads series. After all, this month of fasting and prayer is comfortingly akin to the Christian observance of fasting and prayer at Lent. The treacly analogizing in a Salaam Reads book for middle-schoolers will likely go something like this: “Ramadan and Lent are both times for prayer. And just as Christians fast during 40 days of Lent, Muslims fast for a month of Ramadan. But there are differences. When Christians fast for Lent, they don’t give up all food – even the well-known giving-up of meat is not total, for it is abstained from mostly on Fridays and on Ash Wednesday. And individual Christians often choose to give up some particular food they especially like – such as chocolate or honey-glazed donuts or ice cream — or abstain from some activity that the one abstaining finds particularly pleasurable, such as shopping or watching television. When we Muslims fast, our fast is total, and goes from dawn to dusk.” (All this slyly implying the moral superiority of Muslim Ramadan to Christian Lent.)
You will likely find the following: “And at Ramadan we Muslims give to charity.” That is a most misleading phrase. What I am certain you will not find anywhere in the Salaam Reads books is the important information that for Muslims “zakat” (giving to the needy) means “giving to needy fellow Muslims,” and only to them. This is quite different from the Christian practice of giving to one’s fellow man, not just to one’s fellow Christians.
And readers will be treated to the heartwarming, cloudless and practically identical family lives of Musa, Moises, Mo and Kevin. These practitioners of the “three abrahamic faiths” will be shown to have so much in common. Perhaps not the quintessential It’s-A-Wonderful-Life home for all four families, but in all four families there will be one wife for one husband (thereby airbrushing out the actual arrangements of tens of millions of Muslim families all over the world), and in Mo’s Muslim family, his mother and sisters will not be off-puttingly niqabbed, but dutifully and demurely hijabbed. There will be no mention of plural wives, nor any discussion of the total authority of the Muslim father over his wife (wives) and children. No discussion of what can and has happened to Muslim girls who defied that authority and refused to wear the hijab – see the case of Aqsa Parvez, and of so many more like her.
And in Salaam Reads publications will be no mention of what Muslims are instructed to think about, and how to behave toward, non-Muslims, which are very different from what one would gather from the cheerful palling around of Muslim Mo with non-Muslims Musa, Moises, and Kevin. No Qur’an 60.4: “enmity and hatred have appeared between us [Muslims] and you [non-Muslims] forever until you believe in Allah.” Nothing about the many other verses instructing Believers such as Mo to be merciful with other Believers, but stern with the disbelievers, such as Musa, Moises, and Kevin. Nothing about the Islamic doctrine known as Al Wala’ Wal Bara’ (loyalty and disavowal), whereby a Muslim is required to love what Allah loves, and hate what Allah hates, and to be kind to Believers and harsh or angry with the Disbelievers.
The five pillars of Islam, incumbent on all Believers – shehada, zakat, salat, Ramadan, hajj – will be listed and discussed (as noted above, “zakat” will be translated as “charity,” instead of as “charity to fellow Muslims”), for they are relatively innocuous. The duty of Jihad, incumbent upon Muslims and so important that it has been described by some Sunni scholars as the “sixth pillar of Islam,” will either not be mentioned or, if mentioned, will be given the usual misleading maquillage, presented prettily as the individual Muslim’s “struggle to master himself, to be a better person” (part of the confusing folderol about the “greater jihad” and the “lesser jihad”), when Jihad’s main meaning, in Muslim minds, is the “struggle” to remove all obstacles to the spread, and then the dominance, of Islam, all over the world.
Salaam Reads will certainly be sure to include Quran 5:32, in its popular but incomplete and misleading form:
“The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind.”
But Salaam Reads will not include the modifying verse Qur’an 5:33:
“The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land.”
And I can just imagine the four boys – Musa, Moises, Mo, and Kevin – visiting each other’s churches, synagogues, mosques as part of Interfaith Outreach, and one of the non-Muslim boys proudly proclaiming that in this great land of ours, the First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion, and Mo then replying, “You know, some people seem to think that Muslims don’t respect freedom of religion, but nothing could be further from the truth. Why, more than a thousand years before the First Amendment guaranteed freedom of religion here in our home, we Muslims observed freedom of religion as guaranteed in the Holy Qur’an: ‘There is no compulsion in religion.’” (2.256) What that phrase actually meant in practice is that all non-Muslims have three choices under Muslim rule: death, or conversion to Islam or, if you were a Christian or Jew, and thus of the People of the Book (Ahl al-Kitab) you could be “tolerated” as long as you agreed to a life of indignity and humiliation as a “Dhimmi,” and agreed to pay a special tax, the “Jizyah.” If, in the Salaam Reads series, the word “Jizyah” appears at all, it will no doubt be defined as “an amount non-Muslims pay the Muslim state to protect them.” But protect them from whom? From the Muslims themselves. The exaction of the “Jizyah” is classic extortion.
Muhammad is the central figure in Islam. He is the Perfect Man (al-insan al-kamil) and the Model of Conduct (uswa hasana). But I’m fairly sure that in the Salaam Reads series, there’s a lot you won’t be told about Muhammad. You won’t learn of Muhammad’s consummation of his marriage to little Aisha when she was six, or about the assassination of the poetess Asma bint Marwan or the killing of the elderly Jewish poet Abu ‘Afak, who had mocked Muhammad in verse. You won’t find out about Muhammad’s raid on the Khaybar Oasis, where this “Perfect Man” seized loot from the inoffensive Jewish farmers, and in the afternoon took for himself as a sex slave a Jewish girl, Safiyya, whose husband, father, and brothers Muhammad had had killed that very morning. You won’t hear about the slaughter of 600-900 members of the Banu Qurayza in Medina after they had surrendered.
When the Salaam Reads books start to come out, see if you can find anywhere in their texts “kitman” and “taqiyya.” You won’t find those words printed on the pages. But not to worry: they’ll both be staring you in the face.