Quran facing review in Davis School District, latest religious book to get scrutiny

Dec 18, 2023, 9:42 PM

Add the Quran to the list of religious books facing scrutiny in the Davis School District for its a...

Add the Quran to the list of religious books facing scrutiny in the Davis School District for its appropriateness on school library shelves. (Tim Vandenack, KSL.com)

(Tim Vandenack, KSL.com)

FARMINGTON — Add the Quran to the list of religious books facing scrutiny in the Davis School District for its appropriateness on school library shelves.

The Muslim holy book, written by Muhammad in the seventh century, was the focus of a challenge filed with the district last June, around the same time a pair of challenges were filed against the Book of Mormon. But it didn’t come to public light until it appeared recently on a list of “sensitive materials” review requests posted on the Davis School District website.

Notably, the Bible also faced a challenge in the district late last year, garnering widespread attention across Utah and beyond, but school officials last June determined it could stay on school bookshelves.

In response to a records request, the school district on Monday supplied KSL.com with a copy of the short request pertaining to the Quran, removing information potentially identifying who submitted it. It is only two sentences, reading, “This book is full of sex and violence. It is on too many pages to list,” continuing with a link to a Wikipedia page titled, “Violence in the Quran.”

The Wikipedia page contains a range of scholarly views on the Quran. They largely focus on violence and calls for use of violence in the Quran’s pages and seem aimed at putting the messaging in context. “Numerous scholars and authors, both Muslim and non-Muslim, have testified to the underlying rejection of violence, cruelty, coercion and intolerance of the Quran and its embrace of justice and self-defence,” one passage reads.

The review is ongoing

Chris Williams, the Davis School District spokesman, said the review of the Quran continues and didn’t immediately respond to a series of follow-up questions on the review process. He also said that the review of the Book of Mormon, which faces at least two challenges, continues. The challengers to the Book of Mormon variously cite violence, sexism, racism and instances of incest they say are in its pages.

Davis School District, among other school systems across Utah, was the focus of a slew of book review requests from parents and others starting last year after passage by Utah lawmakers of HB374, which created new guidelines for pulling of books deemed to contain sexually explicit passages. Numerous works of fiction have faced challenges, many by noted authors, causing backlash from some. But the request that the King James version of the Bible be pulled from school shelves — which, as it was worded, seemed to be backlash to the pulling of other books — really ignited controversy.

A Davis School District review committee initially called for the removal of the Bible from elementary and junior high schools due to “vulgarity and violence” in its pages, determining at the same time that it didn’t violate the “sensitive materials” provisions outlined in HB374. An appeals committee subsequently recommended reversal of that decision, and the Davis school board sided with the appellate body, allowing the Bible to remain.

Around the same time, the challenges to the Book of Mormon and the Quran were submitted to Davis School District officials and the reviews are ongoing. Davis School District, the state’s second largest with some 70,000 students, encompasses the entirety of Davis County.

Williams didn’t respond to queries seeking more details about the status of the reviews, but the new policy for book reviews adopted by the Davis school board last September broadly outlines the process. Challenges may be submitted by Davis School District parents, students, staff and board members.

“Specialized” committees are to initially handle reviews, “ideally” completing the process within 30 days of the review request, the policy reads. The bodies determine if a book shall be retained, removed or made accessible only to students who have written parental permission. If a specialized committee determines a book does not contain “sensitive material,” it’s to decide whether it may be retained or if what’s called a “standard” committee should conduct further review.

The standards the committees are to follow, according to the policy, are spelled out in Utah code §76-10-1227(1)(a)(i),(ii) and (iii), and §53G-10-103. The code sections describe the sort of sexual material deemed “sensitive” and inappropriate in books on school library shelves.

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Quran facing review in Davis School District, latest religious book to get scrutiny