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 As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.