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Muslim advocacy group CAIR is calling on Florida to drop PragerU for anti-Muslim content

kid and dog waving American flags on PragerU graphic
Florida Department of Education approved the use of PragerU Kids curriculum in public K-12 schools, prompting backlash from critics who believe the group promotes right-wing ideas.

CAIR-Florida is calling on the state Department of Education to "clarify and reject any relationship between the Islamophobic Prager University and Florida schools."

Florida's Department of Education is receiving more backlash, this time for approving curriculum designed by a conservative nonprofit group.

Florida recently became the first state to officially approve PragerU, an unaccredited non-profit organization, and their newly launched PragerU Kids content to be used in the K-12 public school curriculum.

The decision allows teachers to use the group's educational content, mainly composed of short video clips, as "supplemental materials" in classrooms.

PragerU describes itself as a pro-American voice that provides an "alternative to the dominant left wing ideology in culture, media and education." It's named for co-founder, conservative talk show host Dennis Prager.

But critics have called it out for promoting anti-immigration theories, downplaying systemic racism, and promoting other right-wing ideas such as the Lost Cause mythology that claims the Civil War was not fought over slavery.

Now, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and its Florida chapter are calling on the Department to "clarify and reject any relationship between the Islamophobic Prager University and Florida schools."

The chapter's executive director, Imam Abdullah Jaber, said there's a clear ideological slant in PragerU's educational content.

"A number of PragerU's videos online, they very vividly spread anti-Muslim rhetoric and, beyond that, conspiracy theories," said Jaber.

In a press release, CAIR cited other entities that have documented such rhetoric in PragerU's materials.

CAIR cites a factsheet published by the Georgetown University Bridge Initiative in 2020 that lists a number of PragerU videos that "promote Islamophobic tropes."

One such video features former Dutch politician and Somali-born American activist Ayann Hirsi Ali.

In 2014, Brandeis University withdrew an award from Hirsi Ali after learning she stated “we are at war with Islam,” called for the closing of “all Muslim schools” in America, urged that Islam be “defeated" and claimed “there is no moderate Islam," according to the CAIR release.

“PragerU platforming a speaker who once argued the Constitution should be changed to allow for discrimination against Muslims should be a fairly blatant red flag," said CAIR Research and Advocacy Director Corey Saylor.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Education said that videos from PragerU Kids had been reviewed by the department and that their content aligns with state education standards guiding civics and government instruction.

“PragerU Kids is no different than many other resources, which can be used as supplemental materials in Florida schools at district discretion,” department spokeswoman Cassandra Palelis said in an email.

According to PragerU's website, the group receives an average of 4 million daily video views. Most watchers are under the age of 35, which worries CAIR officials.

"Whether it's college or our younger children in secondary schools, we want them to receive a balanced and accurate education, not propaganda or any indoctrination or anything that promotes prejudice against any minority," said Jaber.

About 3.45 million Muslims reside in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center. About 700,000 Muslims live in Florida, making the state home to the second largest Muslim population in the U.S.

CAIR states its mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this story.

As WUSF's general assignment reporter, I cover a variety of topics across the greater Tampa Bay region.
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