"The Terrorist" Creates Controversy on a Middle School Reading List

February 16, 2000

Source: The Indianapolis Star

On February 16, 2000, The Indianapolis Star reported that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is trying to stop Scholastic publishing from distributing to public schools a novel entitled, "The Terrorist," which the group contends offensively stereotypes and inaccurately portrays Muslims. Judy Corman, senior vice president of Scholastic, defends the book as an award-winning "work of fiction" and Scholastic will not stop distributing the book to schools: "We do not believe in censorship...We believe a parent has the right to say what their children read...We do not believe that one parent has the right to tell other people what to read." The novel is aimed at children age 12 and older and tells the story of Laura, an American Muslim girl in a private school in London who is trying to avenge her brother's death and flee from an arranged marriage. CAIR issued a statement urging Muslim parents to monitor their children's reading lists and to suggest alternative titles. Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for CAIR, stated: "We're not asking Barnes & Noble to withdraw the books from their shelves...What we have here is a situation where impressionable students are assigned this book." Helen Samhan, executive vice president of the Arab American Institute, an educational foundation based in Washington, stated: "The way Muslims are portrayed in schools can in a sense undo some of these stereotypes that are so prevalent in our popular culture...It is the added responsibility of the schools to show that Muslims for the most part are peace-loving, law-abiding and that like any religious community, there is always going to be an extremist fringe."