A few years ago, I was preparing to teach a unit on Islam in my World History class.
Noman, the only Muslim person I knew (and a former student of mine), was in the classroom next door. I asked him whether he would be willing to come and speak to my class about his religion, so that my students could hear from a Muslim student their own age.
Noman spoke eloquently and passionately about what it felt like to be the only Muslim student at our school. He answered questions ranging from the tenets of his faith to whether his marriage would be arranged.
By the end of the period, he had earned the respect and admiration of the entire class.
The next day was Sept. 11, 2001.
As we watched the Twin Towers collapse on television and news commentators began suggesting it was the act of Muslim extremists, one student in the class made a derogatory statement about Muslims.
Another quickly jumped in: "Hey, man, you're talking about all Muslims like they're like that. Noman was here yesterday. Didn't you learn anything? We know now that all Muslims aren't extremists -- they're more likely to be like Noman."
Many other students joined in, in defense of Muslims and of Noman.
It was one of the most powerful moments I've ever had in the classroom.
|Two weeks of study hardly make me an expert. And while I cannot recreate the experience of talking about Islam as a Muslim, I can create an environment of intellectual inquiry and tolerance in my classroom.|
Had Noman not visited the day before, I doubt my protestations that Islam is a peaceful religion would have had much impact on my students' attitudes.
I tell my students the story of Noman every year, but by last spring I knew it was time for me to learn more. In our current world climate, few things are needed more than an educated voice of reason.
So over the summer, I flew out to New Mexico and spent two weeks in Abiquiu with 20 other teachers from across the United States, studying Islam at the Dar al Islam Teacher's Institute.
I thought we'd all be history teachers, but we taught everything from English to theater to Portuguese. We were Catholic, Southern Baptist, Jewish, Unitarian and agnostic.
What we had in common was a desire to know more. So we sat and listened to some of the foremost authorities on Islam around the country.
Among others, we heard Dr. Sulayman Nyang, former ambassador from Ghana to Saudi Arabia who is now a professor at Howard University, and Hamza Yusuf Hanson, an American convert to Islam who spent so long studying Islam in West Africa he earned the title of sheikh.
Amid all the lectures and study groups, I learned to watch for the snakes that gathered on the mesa I had to climb onto in order to call home, and to keep an eye out for the scorpions that sauntered into the shower.
Like many of my fellow teachers, I've taken what I learned this summer and applied it in my classroom. I started my lesson on Islam this year asking my room full of 14-year-olds for the first word that came to mind when I said "Islam."
"Terrorist" was the reply.
By the end of second day of the lesson, nearly every student wrote an impassioned defense of French Muslim girls who have been denied the right under French law to wear a hijab (a traditional head covering) into their classrooms.
Two weeks of study hardly make me an expert. And while I cannot recreate the experience of talking about Islam as a Muslim, I can create an environment of intellectual inquiry and tolerance in my classroom.
If I can cause one fewer person to slide into stereotyping, the snakes and scorpions will have been worth it.
Laura Huffman teaches history and film at Robinson High School in Concord. To contact her, send e-mail to [email protected].
Source: The Charlotte Observer
Everything you hear in the media, please don't believe it. God has given you the brain to think and read from sources other than which is controlled by a group in the USA.
All this negative things about Islam and Muslims in the media, I have been living in the USA for last 21 years and know thousands of Muslims who are really good law abiding citizens of this great country in the World. I have now and in the past, neighbors of all faith eg. Christians and Jews, really very opened minded and understanding human beings. Other point you raised that in the Muslim coutries they would kill the non-Muslims, it is not true. Read the history, in the past when Christians started killing Jews, it was Muslim states where they got assylum. Islam doesn't allow to kill any human being unless they attack you or try to occupy your land. About Jihad, it is presented in the media which has nothing to do with ISLAM. Simply, I urge you or anybody, who want to know what we "Muslims" believe in, to read the english translation of Holy Quran on www.islamicity.com.
I know a muslim family, am I to suppose that their 4 year old daughter is somehow complicit in the events you describe merely because of her religion?
I know an elderly woman whose home was taken from her in Palestine, she has nothing left; she has done no wrong to anyone, she is simply an elderly woman! Am I to somehow suppose that she is actually conspiring to evil deeds simply because she is Muslim?
Give me a break! Your incendiary statements are uncalled for and unqualified. I suggest you review your thoughts on such matters before you add to the pain in the world. There is more than enough of that already.
You would be treated at the level of animals due to your being an infidel and disgusting non-muslim. You see, Islam IS a peaceful religion as long as you are muslim or succumb to Islam as law. Otherwise, you are not worth anything, and you are not considered worthy of life.
Great article. I suppose learning about
Islam in a classroom is good for students
but what about the parents of these children?
I hope that these enlightened students share
what they have learned with their peers as
well as with their siblings and parents.
Peace and Blessings
But the author is right, if I can enlighten just one person about what Islam really is and how truly awesome it is, my efforts are not in vain. These are the times that try our souls. As a good Christian, I want you all to know that I stand with you and pray with you. God bless you all.
As a Muslim, I would like to thank Laura
Huffman for taking time to write an article
taking an unbiased view on Islam.
Our creator has created us different so that we may know one another. By taking the steps to truly learn about one another we most defintely learn more about who we truly are. May God bless you and your drive for learning the truth for yourself, rather adopting anothers' way of thinking.
Kind regards, wa-Salam!