There are some six to eight million Muslims living in the United States and many Muslim children attend public schools. For decades, Muslim families relied on Islamic Sunday schools to teach their children about Islam and Arabic, the language of the holy Koran. But now some Muslim Americans are establishing their own Islamic academies, combining a regular school curriculum with Islamic studies. VOA's Mohamed Elshinnawi has more from Dearborn, Michigan, where he visited the Muslim American Youth Academy.
These children were born in the United States, second or third generation Muslim Americans, so they are not alien to American culture. Their parents enrolled them in the Muslim American Youth Academy in Dearborn in order to raise them both as Americans and as practicing Muslims.
Albert Harb is the academy's director. "Islam is a multicultural religion. It has been able to promote itself and exist in all cultures worldwide, so we emphasize that we are a multi-cultural religion, we are open to other cultures and we want to interact with people of different faiths in a positive way," he said.
The academy is a part of of the Islamic Center of America and is located between two churches. Hassan Qazwini is the imam of the Islamic Center, the nation's largest says, "We believe that these will be the ambassadors of Islam to non-Muslims. They will be the ones who will be carrying the banner of Islam."
Harb says the academy follows the standards of the Michigan state curriculum. "In addition, we have a very strong Islamic component, we teach Islam as well as Arabic as a foreign language. It is very important for us to make our kids also know Arabic so they can read the Koran -- not only read it but comprehend it and understand it."
Arabic proficiency has become a national security resource since the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. And the academy' aim is to produce young Americans who can speak fluent Arabic.
"We have pre-school up to the eight grade and we have enrolled 368 students. We grew from less than a couple of hundreds to 368. If that keeps going, we will be adding one grade every year to our classes," Harb said.
Muslim Americans across the United States are repeating this experience on different scales aiming to raise their children to enjoy American culture and keep their own traditions.