By: Zohra Jiwa
American Muslim parents feel that it is their duty to act to preserve their Muslim identity and that it’s an Amana to their children. One of the actions taken by Muslim parents is resorting to registering their children in an Islamic school rather than a public school. Islamic institutions are gaining the acceptance in American education that other religious schools have long enjoyed. There are now more than 300 elementary and secondary Islamic schools across the country, according to the Council for American Private Education (CAPE), where many of them are represented.
However, Islamic schools have faced criticism especially from the West. Lets us discuss some of the myths and the reality in detail.
1) Myth: Islamic schools have inferior curricula and poor academically:
Educational loss or gain has nothing to do with a school being Islamic, Jewish, Catholic or public. We all know that many public schools, despite their enormous resources and huge bureaucratic set-ups, miserably failed to deliver quality education, good discipline/citizenship. The quality of education depends on an individual institution’s commitment to excellence.
Both public and Islamic schools provide the same educational programs with minor differences. The main thing that sets them apart are the core values that differ in terms of dressing code, eating and drinking habits (Halaal Food), relationships, smoking, swearing etc. These schools combine traditional classes with Islamic instruction. Students learn Arabic, the Holy Quran, and are taught how to pray in addition to the educational curricula. So, all the elements of a good school are fully present in an Islamic school.
One more thing I must discuss here is that Islamic school enrollment is not the “one cure for all” remedy since academic performance and Islamic values are also dependent on the parent’s role and tarbiyah. A subsequent study has concluded that, “Family, in all of its dimensions, has a major influence on student achievement. https://youtu.be/mp96bQybSD0
2) Islamic schools’ isolate children from the larger American society:
Muslims are thought to "bubble wrap" their children through Islamic schools.
The reality is that every child has plenty of social interactions both Muslim and non-Muslim. It is common misconception that Muslim students from Islamic school lack/ have issues with social skills. Islamic school certainly gives Muslim children an atmosphere in which they can grow and excel.
Second, the human mind and personality is remarkably capable of adjusting to change. This explains the success of various immigrant communities across America. The members of these communities were born and raised in a totally different culture and environment.
Besides, Muslim children who attend Islamic schools are never totally out of touch with the American society. Their exposure to the larger American culture is still considerable. Television, news media, neighborhoods, and non-Muslim staff in their own institutions keep the windows to the larger world wide open.
Research indicates that students who attend Islamic school certainly gives Muslim children an atmosphere in which they can grow and excel. If you want to see how isolated Muslims are from their American friends, neighbor and nation, have a look at this:
3) Islamic schools are not a promising idea since religion and science are not compatible:
It is commonly thought that religion in general, including Islam, is simply not compatible with science, reason or knowledge. Hence educational institutes must be kept separate from any religion’s dogma. The Quran repeatedly emphasizes the importance of seeking knowledge, verifying information, use of logic, evidence, consultation, reflection and promotes the study of biology, creation, archaeology, history and sciences. Some of the many examples are shown below.
The Quran clearly states signs of the truth it promotes exist in the whole universe.
We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves, until it becomes clear to them that this is the truth. Is it not sufficient as regards your Lord that He is a witness over all things? [41:53]
The embryological data in the Holy Quran is explained stage by stage precisely
After studying Quran without any prejudice, it can be easily concluded that student Islamic school are very fortunate to get a chance to study in an institute with a curriculum based on the teaching of the Holy Quran that been proven to be authentic even by the non-believers who couldn’t deny the matching scientific facts and proves that it’s certainly a practical idea to have Islamic schools.
4) Islamic schools teach religious intolerance
Islam has always given respect and freedom of religion to all faiths. In the Quran it says, “God does not forbid you, with regards to those who fight you not for religion nor drive you away out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them, for God loves those who are just.”
Prophet Muhammed used to provide protection to the Jews and Christians during his time, therefore prosecution or bad mouthing any other religion is very much against the religion. One more History fact to debunk this myth is that for 800 years; the Christians and Jews lived with total privilege under the Islamic rule of Spain; Islam has a history of peace and co-existence; no amount of bigotry can change this reality.
5) Islamic schools brainwash suppresses free thinking among Muslim-American youth.
A research has been done about the parent’s exercise school choice and it was concluded that their main concern is academic excellence, safety of their child and moral consideration. Muslim parents are willing to pay the extra cost of their child’s education since they don’t have a choice. The very need of public school arose when the Muslims as students were not allowed to pray/practice their religion e.g. there were cases when students and even teacher of schools have pulled a Muslim girls scarf, was called a terrorist etc. Muslim students face bullying simply for following their faith in public schools or sometimes just for being Muslim students and then this myth adds to their problems.
Islam is a religion that encourages its followers to observe, things and do research then how can an Islamic school follow such a negative trait which is totally against Islamic principle. The following verses in the Quran summarize this point very nicely
“It is a Book We have sent down to you, full of blessing, so let people of intelligence ponder (liyaddabbaru) its Signs and take heed.” [Saad, 38:29]
In this ayah the word, liyaddabbaru is used – which means have to have ‘taddabur’ (deep contemplation)
Allah سبحانه وتعالى says:
أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ أَمْ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبٍ أَقْفَالُهَا
“Will they not then ponder the Qur’an or are there locks upon their hearts?” [Muhammad, 47:24]
Allah سبحانه وتعالى is not only asking us to recite the Qur’an, rather He is asking us to ponder and contemplate over the Qur’an.
Hence the myth is false that Islamic school provide a free environment where they will not be misunderstood, and open exchange of views may come more easily in an all-Muslim environment, where the children dare to raise questions they would keep to themselves in a more public setting. Some parents suggests that Islamic schools may promote more free thinking among Muslim-American youth than public schools can. At the same time, the students at Islamic schools are taught that, if they want their religion respected, Muslims need to learn to respect other faiths first.
In the end I want to summarize the message with this beautiful link