Islamic education in US, struggle for acceptance
“As-Salamu Alaikum! Good morning!” booms Habeeb Quadri, looking out over a sea of kids gathered in the gymnasium of the Muslim Community Center Full Time School.
(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) – “As-Salamu Alaikum!” the students shout in reply, echoing the traditional Arabic greeting, “Peace be upon you.”
It is a scene played out in countless variations each weekday at the estimated 240 to 250 private Islamic schools in the U.S. offering instruction to K-12 students. The increasing enrollment in these schools reflects the religion’s growing number of American followers and the desire of parents to shelter young Muslims from discrimination and discomfort they might encounter at public schools.
But Islamic schools, like mosques and other Islamic institutions, can can be viewed with distrust and even hostility, which means their founders have to work overtime to gain a foothold in many communities.
The Islamic School League of America (ISLA), a nonprofit that connects Muslim educators and institutions, estimates that 40,000 students are enrolled in Islamic schools in the United States, a 25 percent increase from 2006. Those numbers are expected to keep growing as new schools open and existing schools expand.
In addition to standard curricula adopted from public schools, Islamic schools typically offer Arabic and study of the Quran. Beyond that, many offer Islamic studies, which vary widely but may include stories of the prophets, teaching about the Crusades and scientific discoveries of the Ottoman Empire. Teaching approaches also vary, and it’s difficult to generalize about many other aspects of their curricula and religious instruction.
As with other religious schools, parents seek out Islamic schools in part to shelter their kids from the rough-and-tumble exchanges and atmosphere they commonly encounter in public schools.