News / USA

Islamic Schools in US Raise Hopes, Fears

Muslim educators say Islam is a small part of curriculum but critics worry schools breed violent anti-Western Islamists

Students at the Muslim American Youth Academy in Dearborn, Michigan follow the standard state curriculum. They also learn about Islam and take Arabic as a foreign language.
Students at the Muslim American Youth Academy in Dearborn, Michigan follow the standard state curriculum. They also learn about Islam and take Arabic as a foreign language.

Multimedia

Audio
Mohamed Elshinnawi

As the population of Muslims in the United States continues to grow, so too does the number of Islamic schools serving Muslim families across the nation.

American Muslims see these schools as a way to provide their children with a combination of good, mainstream education and training in the essentials of their faith. But critics fear some of these schools might expose Muslim children to radical Islamist views.

Religious education

Education has always been very important to the Muslim community in the United States. And like many other families, Muslim parents have educational options. They can send their children to secular, county-administered public schools or private academies while providing religious training at home or on weekends.

Alternately, they can send their children to private religious schools. Yvonne Haddad, an Islamic history professor at Georgetown University, says Islamic schools serve the same role as the many other private, church-oriented schools in the United States.

Yvonne Haddad, an Islamic history professor at Georgetown University, says there are over 100 Islamic schools in North America that teach the state curriculum in addition to religion.
Yvonne Haddad, an Islamic history professor at Georgetown University, says there are over 100 Islamic schools in North America that teach the state curriculum in addition to religion.

"The Islamic schools in North America, there are over 100 of them teaching the curriculum of the state," she says. "There is absolutely no difference in the content of social studies, history, geography, math and science. The only difference is they have one period a day where they study Islam."

According to Haddad, soon after Islamist terrorists carried out multiple attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, Americans began asking whether Islamic schools in America might be breeding grounds for homegrown terrorists that pose a threat to national security.

New reality

That public perception created a new challenge for Muslim parents. Their children began to encounter prejudice in public schools, while the news media often associated Islamic schools with extremist ideologies.

"Some of the Muslim parents took their kids out of the Islamic schools and put them in public schools because they were afraid of backlash," says Haddad. "But in some other places they took their kids out of public schools and put them in Islamic schools to protect them."

Moral and religious values have also figured in many Muslim families' school choices. For some conservative Muslim parents, subjects that are standard in the curricula of many public schools, such as sex education, are problematic. And faced with the high tuition costs at private Islamic schools, many Muslim parents elect, in the end, to home school their children - a choice, Haddad notes, often made as well by families of other religious faiths.

"They sort of organize a group sometimes with Christian people who keep their children out of public schools and sometimes with Jewish people, and they have curriculums that you can actually study on the internet and the parents can supervise their children, that way they feel that they can protect them the best way."

Rising public concern

Haddad, who co-authored the book, "Educating the Muslims of America," acknowledges the rising public concern about precisely what children are being taught in the Islamic schools.  

Daniel Pipes, a conservative Mideast historian who runs the Middle East Forum and Campus Watch websites, believes a number of private Islamic schools in America offer their students a curriculum laced with extremist content.

"It is not very subtle. These are schools with teachers and textbooks that are overtly anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish and [pro-]Islamic supremacy," says Pipes. "Talking about Islam as the only religion, leading to views that are clearly problematic, and in some cases led to terrorism. Notably in the Islamic Saudi Academy, one of the school's best students is now in jail for having tried to kill President Bush."

Pipes argues that many Islamic schools are spreading extremist ideas and that they work to instill in their students an unhealthy notion that the only thing that matters in their lives is their Islamic identity.

Albert Harb, director of the Muslim American Youth Academy in Dearborn, Michigan, hopes his students exemplify the positive aspects of Islam.
Albert Harb, director of the Muslim American Youth Academy in Dearborn, Michigan, hopes his students exemplify the positive aspects of Islam.

Standard subjects

But Albert Harb doesn't see it that way. He is the director of the Muslim American Youth Academy in Dearborn, Michigan.

"We follow the standards of the state of Michigan curriculum. In addition, we have an Islamic component, and we teach Islam as well as Arabic as a foreign language," says Harb. "We want to ensure that we can develop an Islamic character with our youth and give the positive aspects of Islam here in the society of the U.S.A."

Muslim-American efforts to create and support Islamic schools mirror previous efforts by Roman Catholic and Jewish communities in America. Both communities faced the same kind of public resistance when they first established their religious schools.  

Experts suggest that while Muslim-Americans work to secure the best possible education for their children, they should also redouble their efforts to educate the American public about Islam  and about how they are passing their faith on to the next generation.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More