Studying Islam Effect

Category: Americas, Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society Topics: Islam Views: 6767

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

  Category: Americas, Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society
  Topics: Islam
Views: 6767

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Older Comments:
Yaa shaikh Hudd: May Allahu ta'aala reward you with good for the struggles in your life and for the light you provide, especially here on this website. I do wish to advise you, stop wasting your time trying to educate people who don't want to learn anything, but rather wznt to saturate themselves in kufr and dalaalah. These fools seek to play on the emotions of the people - turn a blind eye toward them and continue to provide hope and inspiration to those of us who wish to learn. As salaamu alaikum.

Dear Mark, you wrote down against Islam and Muslims and advised sister Laura to wake up and don't fall for the wrong ones, I have a point for you, please read and think about it. All the incidents you wrote about Muslims that they killed here and they killed there. Well lets take the so called "19" stupid hijackers, as they claimed to be good Muslims ....... they do not represent our great religion ISLAM. So-called Muslims (if they really) killed the children in Russia, So called Muslims killing the innocent non-Muslims in the other part of the World. As I said they don't represent us Muslims. In the other hand US Army soldiers who killed and tortured the Muslims in "Abu-Ghareeb", do they represent the whole Chrictianity or USA ......... indeed not. How many Muslims were killed by the Christians on the name of religion ...... read about "Crusaders". Read the history, history which is written by the Christians not Muslims.
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

May Allah bless you and your family! It was a wonderful thing you did. For the one true power is knowledge. It is through knowledge we gain true understanding and compassion for our fellow man regardless of our personal beliefs/religion. Praise unto all who truly quest to understand. Peace unto you all.

Mark & Laurie Burgess, you attempt to ridicule Laura Huffman? You Mark calling her a fool? You just made a fool out of yourself, she has a most appreciated article, ... I feel sorry for you. You cannot blame the blind or the insane of not sharing in to the main stream perceptions and enjoyments of life. You both are sick and all you need is maybe compassion in the manner you give to a mad person restricted in a straight jacket. Only you are wandering around freely that because you are not a threat to the society. In fact you are no threat or challenge to anything. By only reading your comments I became stupider. Your comments are the mark of crass ignorance, unforgiving cretinism that would make a lunatic feel lucky. You Laura Burgess appear like having your own religion, I think in your condition you believe yourself a prophet. You submersively attempted to blame Islam in some sort? If you are honest and brave step out from the closet and say which part of the Quran supports what you said and then give an alternative "righteous religion". I can debate that with you since one of my favourite courses at the University was comparative religions. God is in everyone of us? Who us? If you meant mankind then in those murdered Muslims as well. So God kills God?! What kind of full moon lunacy is this? Light is not contained in a foul gut, we are no gods, Laurie, neither anything from God's majesty is in your filthy earthen body, if that would be true, you would never die. ... Like I said before, you can criticize wrongdoings by people who profess Islamic faith, since their actions are not necessarily Islamic. To criticize Islam you need to really know Islam, and when you know it, you can't criticize it any longer.

Mark: Your generalizations and simplifications of current world events in no way negates the efforts of this woman and others like her. I really don't understand how what you say is supposed to advance the cause of peace, justice or whatever it is that you claim to hold dear.
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.

Subahanallah!!!!!!Thank you so much, Ms. Hoffman!!It feels so good to hear those words come from a non-muslim... You have really made a difference to me!Words can really not describe how much your article meant to me... Wish you the best now and always.. May God bless you and your family!!Those who fully understand Islam know that it is a religion of peace... Thank you!Assalamu Alaikum!!

You probably ARE brave and intelligent, but you are a fool. If you lived in a muslim country at best you'd be a second class citizen, but you would be killed at worst because you are not muslim.

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.

As salaamu alaykum!
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

Amen! Reading this article (and the responses) was most encouraging. I have struggled in much the same way that the author has. Indeed, I have a similar story to Norman about a friend named Jameel. There have been many times that I have had to overcome ridicule and out right hostility for doing and saying what I believe to be right, for defending Muslims in my country from prejudice and attack. Time and again I have told other Christians that Islam is the brother religion to Christianity if ever thre was one. Time and again I have told fellow Americans about the fabulous accomlishments of Islamic civilization and culture. It is good to read that there are others out there. Sometimes what I am up against feels overwhelming. Just read what Jerry Falwell says about Mohammed (I won't quote Jerry here out of respect to the Prophet, peace be upon him); it's not just insulting, it's downright scary, especially when you know that many beleive everything Falwell says.
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.

Thanks to author Laura Huffman for learnig the truth and teaching it to others. May God shower all His mercy upon you and your family.

Subhanallah! May Allah guide you always...

I loved the article because it did make a difference.
Thank you

Beautiful. Thank You. Bless You. You are brave and intelligent, honest and compassionate. Allah swt has opened your heart through your mind. Please continue to quest for knowledge. Only you will win in the end. Please encourage others to do the same as you.

RAMISA said:
it was a beautiful article, and with 2 kids in school,i understand the importance of teachers to clear misconceptions and strive for constructive dialogue so that our kids grow up unbiased with healthy respect of each other.

As a Muslim, I would like to thank Laura
Huffman for taking time to write an article
taking an unbiased view on Islam.

People like you can make world a better place to live. I pary that Allah give you "TAUFEEQ", and WEST would know what really Islam is. This is not possible without the HELP of people like you.

Thank you very much Ms. Hoffman for your sincere approach to getting to know other human beings with out prejudice. I think this is a noble act that many people of all backrounds and religions can learn from.
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.

As a muslim reading this article by a non muslim it has in some way restored my hope in humanity and that Allah God or how ever our maker is perceived by us all his laws and guidance represent the thread that bind humanity and keep us from evil. Thank you for your kind words, may Allah smile on you always.

subhanallah, this is a beautiful article. Jazakallah khair that there are beautiful people like her. May Allah subhana wa ta'ala reward her.

Sorry, Laura, but any Religion and I repeat ANY Religion, that does not have unequivocal equality for male and female (& forget that baloney about designated roles given by God for men only to do which, just by the by, are the roles of power and dominance)than to me it is not a God given Religion. Again, Laura, any alleged God given manuscript that advocates taking to arms in any fashion is not God given decree (Come off it Laura, what "get an army together and lets fight off the aggressors but once we have won, spare them). God sounds suspiciously just like us, does he not. God is inside each and every one of us we do not need organised Religion to find him.

There are bigots and opportunists in the States and every society, including mine. Laura's, and the Robinson High School community's story, is another example of open-mindedness in the search for full understanding that exists there, and hope for the world.

Kind regards, wa-Salam!

Hj Zin