BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Spanish Portuguese Caribbean
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Americas  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
US university sued over Koran class
Woman holds US flag and Christian cross
Religion and education in the US are an awkward mix
A US university that included a book on the Koran in a class for new students is being sued by a Christian organisation and a group of students.

They claim the university is unfairly promoting one religion at the expense of others.


This is part of a long history of anti-Islamic bias that is akin to anti-Semitism or even racism

University professor Carl W Ernst
The incident has led to renewed controversy over American attitudes towards Islam following the 11 September attacks.

The case began when the University of North Carolina chose professor Michael Sells's book, "Approaching the Qur'an" for one of its courses.

The university felt that interest in Islam had increased among the student population.

"We are obviously not promoting one religion," the university's Chancellor James Moeser told the Washington Post newspaper.

"What more timely subject could there be?"

'Violated rights'

Students were required to read the book - a translation into English of passages from Islam's holy book - as part of a first-year course.

Muslim pilgrims at Mecca
US students have become more interested in studying Islam
But legal action group the American Family Association Centre for Law & Policy, part of conservative Christian group the American Family Association, filed a lawsuit on behalf of three students and two former students in late July.

It claimed that the university's requirement to read the book violated their First Amendment rights.

It added that the book does not present a full picture of Islam as it does not contain passages cited by Islamic militants as justification for acts of terror.

The university later amended the course so that students would have an option not to read the book - although those who objected would have to write a paper on why they chose not to.

But this was dismissed by the organisation.

"Pitting students who object to the forced reading of the Koran against those who do not is the modern equivalent of requiring the objecting students to wear yellow stars of David," the organisation said in a statement.

The university countered last week by asking a judge in North Carolina to dismiss the suit and the university's religious professor, Carl W Ernst, accused the group of bias.

"It is easy to take phrases out of context from any sacred book," he told the newspaper.

"This is part of a long history of anti-Islamic bias that is akin to anti-Semitism or even racism."

Bigotry accusations

The study and teaching of Islam in US universities has increased in popularity since 11 September, although attitudes towards the religion in some sectors have caused controversy.

Comments made by conservative Christian groups in the US have sparked criticism and accusations of bigotry.

Shortly after the attacks, evangelist Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, wrote in the Wall Street Journal newspaper that the Koran "provides ample evidence that Islam encourages violence in order to win converts and to reach the ultimate goal of an Islamic world".

Right-wing pundit Bill O'Reilly said on his Fox News Network programme that teaching the Koran to US students was wrong as it was the book of "our enemy's religion".

See also:

26 Jul 02 | Americas
12 Jul 02 | Education
23 Jul 02 | Americas
26 Dec 01 | Middle East
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes