A North Carolina congressman is denouncing the use of federal dollars to “promote the rich cultural heritage of Islamic civilizations.”
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) told Fox News that he was appalled by the hundreds of thousands of dollars used to fund the program through a National Endowment for the Humanities grant – calling it “wasting taxpayer money.”
Jones was referring to the “Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys” program. The NEH program put dozens of books promoting the Islamic culture in more than 800 libraries in all 50 states. The program is funded by a $1.8 million grant.
NEH Communications director Judy Havemann told Fox News the “Muslim Journeys Bookshelf” is funded by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. It was unclear how much taxpayer money was used to facilitate the project.
Libraries that participate in the government program will receive 25 books about the Islam, along with films and access to the Oxford Islamic Studies Online. The libraries will also be required to host community discussions about the Muslim faith and culture.
Craven Community College, in Jones’ district, was one of the institutions to receive the NEH grant.
“NEH has a long tradition of supporting large scale projects devoted to the historical, cultural, political, literary, and artistic traditions associated with the world’s faiths,” Havemann told Fox News.
But Jones said it’s financially irresponsible for the federal government to spend so much money – given the economic troubles facing the nation.
“It makes zero sense for the U.S. government to borrow money from China in order to promote the culture of Islamic civilizations,” said Jones – who has a history of opposing funding to the NEH and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Among the books offered are, “Muhammad”, “The Story of the Qur’an”, and “The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman’s Journey to Love and Islam.”
Jones’ comments drew a rebuke from the first Muslim elected to Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN).
“Americans should have the freedom to learn about any culture and specifically excluding any religion is un-American,” Ellison said in a statement. “Just as we have access to books on Christianity, Judaism, and atheism in our public libraries now, Americans should have access to books about Muslim culture.”
Jones said the community college should give equal exposure to books about Christianity and “America’s rich Judeo-Christian heritage.”
A local Christian group has offered the college 25 books on those particular topics.
“I want to treat it fairly and I think too many times the Christian faith is not treated fairly,” Jones told television station WITN.
A college spokesperson told Fox News they would be glad to take a look at the books – but were noncommittal on whether they would be shelved in the library.
“In light of the government’s role in keeping God out of the public square and the obstacles that Christians face when it comes to prayer and the ability to publicly proclaim our faith, it just seems more than odd that the federal government will provide a package of ‘Muslim Journeys’ to a number of colleges nationwide,” said Jerry Schill, chairman of the local Christian Coalition.
Ellison said he plans on speaking directly to Rep. Jones about his concerns.
“More than anything, free speech gives us the freedom to learn about beliefs and religions other than our own,” Ellison said.