Muslim Students in U.S. Schools Essay

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The population of American schools includes learners whose educational experiences are diverse by variables such as race, gender, culture, and social class. Students who are observant Muslims in American schools introduce religion as an additional analytical variable. For Muslim students, the central presence of God in the individual’s mind and heart is an important factor in shaping one’s life.

The Western worldview might be problematic for Muslim youth and their families because a Muslim considers civil life to be embedded within a spiritual realm. In some cases, Muslim students face the challenge to maintain their religious identity in American schools. The conflict between the value system of the home and that of the school becomes more important when dealing with issues of regulating gender relations, dating, physical education, and sex education classes. Muslim students may be uneasy about sharing changing-room space, for example, because modesty is a major theme in Islamic teachings. Muslim female students who choose to wear the head cover (hijab) will be looking for a culturally sensitive educational environment.

Some other areas where religious values and the school environment may clash include school menus. For example, pork is included in most districts’ menus. Because Muslims are prohibited from eating any pork product, labeling those items would help students to be aware of their choices. The month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast, occurs during the school year; many schools allow Muslim students to sit in the library during lunchtime so they won’t be around food. In some districts, students are given a time and space to perform their prayers while at school without disrupting their class schedule.

Some Muslims also have concerns about how American textbooks deal with the history of Muslims, the history of colonialism, and the Third World. Poor or inaccurate coverage of Muslims in textbooks disturbs Muslim communities in the West. Teachers may also have misconceptions regarding Muslim homelands that reflect negatively on students’ pride in their heritage.

Helping teachers to eliminate their own stereotypes will have a domino effect on all the students who pass through their classrooms. Teachers should know that Muslim families generally consider education important, although because they vary in socioeconomic status, they also differ in educational experiences. Moreover, Muslim parents also want their daughters to be educated as a means of social mobility, growth, and financial independence.

The presence of young Muslims in American schools can have a positive impact on the school culture. For example, Muslim students have started school clubs that are geared not only toward serving their needs but also toward educating non-Muslims about Islam. Clubs such as Muslim Learning club, Muslim Student Association, and Islamic Culture club are but a few examples of Muslims creating their own space within public space. American schools tend to have pervasive cultures, allowing Muslim students to develop an educational identity and explore different meanings of the self, values, and an imagined future. These multilayered identities are fluid and dynamic, responding to the social context in which these young Muslims function.


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