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

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid