Most American schoolchildren learn about Islam in a social studies classroom. But at the Friends School in Baltimore, sixth-graders make their own mini-pilgrimage every year, to the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C.
As their bus rattles along the highway south to Washington, most of the kids are busy making up songs about each other. But 12-year-old Julia Potter is counting off the Five Pillars of Islam on her fingers: charity, prayer, fasting, profession of faith, and the pilgrimage to Mecca.
These kids are well-versed in the basics of Islam and more: In class, they learn about Judaism, Hinduism and Christianity; about prophets, taboos and holy laws. And every year, sixth-graders visit the Islamic Center — though every year, according to teacher Deloris Jones, they get there late. “There’s absolutely nothing over the years I have been able to do to keep this thing on time,” Jones says.