Washington DC Schools Teach About Islam

November 28, 2000

Source: The Washington Post

On November 28, 2000, The Washington Post reported that an increasing number of schools in Washington, D.C. are incorporating lessons about Islam and Muslims into the curriculum. "Educators said they are careful to keep the lessons focused on information rather than religious preaching. But they added that with thousands of Muslim students now attending Washington area schools, basic knowledge of Muslim students and their holidays is needed, especially during a time of tense conflict in the Middle East...Some Muslim activists and students are also talking about the idea of having a formal Muslim or Middle Eastern Heritage month, much like Hispanic and African American heritage months. At Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, Amani Elkassabany, a Muslim teacher and adviser for the Muslim Students Association, said she supports the idea and believes it could boost the self-esteem of students from the Middle East...At the school, Muslim and non-Muslim students alike prepared information cards that explained Ramadan. The cards described how Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during the month. They also said that Muslims have a three-day party called an Eid al-Fitr with food and gifts at the end of Ramadan, which marks the revelation of their holy book, the Koran. The students also made small packages of dried apricots, dates and almonds--foods used to break the fast every day after sunset--and placed them in the mailboxes of all the teachers in the school...Many Washington area schools are hosting information and Islamic heritage sessions around the time of Ramadan. Several school districts, including Montgomery County and Fairfax County, have also held Ramadan sessions for teachers that include trips to local mosques...Afeefa Syeed, an intercultural trainer and consultant, has developed a lesson plan she has used in schools in Fairfax, Montgomery and Prince George's counties to teach about Ramadan. The curriculum contains a show-and-tell with prayer rugs, Korans and coloring books about the holy month, along with arts-and-crafts projects for students. Muslim students said they find that the lessons often make it easier for them during Ramadan...Students said they prefer that teachers or visitors explain what Ramadan is, saying they sometimes feel uncomfortable talking about it...Muslim teachers, including Wafa Hozien, who teaches government at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, said they also appreciate it. 'It's nice, because I like Madonna and I grew up very American,' said Hozien, 31, who came to this country from Libya when she was 8. 'They can now explain that I can be very American and still have my religion and pride. It's more complicated than people assume.'"