Skip to comments.Parents push public schools to be more Muslim-friendly(allowed prayer)
Posted on 09/03/2005 8:06:40 AM PDT by Pikamax
Parents push public schools to be more Muslim-friendly 9/3/2005, 8:31 a.m. ET By WAYNE PARRY The Associated Press
CLIFFSIDE PARK, N.J. (AP) Yasmeen Elsamra had a simple request: While her classmates were eating lunch, she wanted to go off by herself for a few moments and pray.
The 14-year-old was told she couldn't, and went home distraught that afternoon in October 2003. Praying five times a day is a cornerstone of her Muslim faith.
"If I wasn't allowed to pray my second prayer at school, I couldn't do it at home," she said. "When school finishes, the third prayer begins."
Her family contacted a Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which asked the school district to reconsider. Eventually, the district acknowledged it had no policy preventing a student from praying on his or her own during free time, and allowed Yasmine to use an empty classroom to unfurl her prayer rug, face Mecca and touch her head to the floor in a few moments of worship.
Her case was part of a nationwide grassroots effort by Muslim parents to make public schools more friendly and accommodating to Muslim students. The movement gained strength following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
"The reality for many Muslim students in public schools is very difficult," said Ingrid Mattson, vice president of the Islamic Society of North America. "It's highly stressful."
She said her children were sometimes taunted in their Connecticut school district.
"The kids will say, `Hey Osama, do you have a bomb? Are you going to blow us up?' " she said. "My daughter has had people try to pull her head scarf off, or say, `What are you doing with that rag on your head?' But they have also had friends who defended them."
Noor Ennab, a fifth grader who attends the private Muslim Al-Noor School in Brooklyn, N.Y., said she was driven out of her public school by post-Sept. 11 harassment.
"Before that (the 2001 terror attacks) happened, we were treated so kind," she said. "Now it's like, '`You're a terrorist; get out of this country.' "
Older students also have had problems. Debra Mason of Jersey City dropped out of Fairleigh Dickinson University's nursing program after she said she was told to remove her head covering during patient rounds. The New Jersey civil rights division recently found probable cause to proceed with an investigation into whether the school violated her rights. The school declined comment on the case.
Mason said she can't imagine how anyone could feel uncomfortable seeing a nurse with a head scarf, particularly in northern New Jersey.
"It's not like no one's ever seen a Muslim," she said. "There are Muslim doctors everywhere, Muslim nurses, and Muslim patients."
Some school districts are starting to take notice. A zero-tolerance policy on harassment of Muslim students was adopted by the Broward County school board in Florida in March 2003, just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began.
In February, Muslim community leaders led the Pledge of Allegiance at a San Antonio high school as part of a daylong conference on Islam.
Paterson, N.J., home to the state's largest Arab-American community, lets some students out of class early on Friday to attend prayers with their parents' permission, and is one of a handful of New Jersey districts that closes schools for Eid-al-Fitr, a Muslim religious holiday.
"You're seeing a lot of schools becoming more sensitive this way," said Michael Yaple, a spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association. "A lot of these decisions are based on demographics. For generations, the major school holidays were Christian and Jewish ones. But New Jersey has become so diverse that you're seeing more districts seeing to the needs of their students and staff."
Bassima Mustafa, a civics teacher in Paterson, said it is crucial that students feel comfortable and welcome in the classroom.
"A majority of our students are immigrants or the children of immigrants," she said. "It's going to spread as the population increases."
But despite a large Muslim student population, efforts to add Eid to the school holiday calendar fizzled earlier this year in Baltimore, where the school board voted 10-0 against the proposal. That disappointed Samira Hussein, a parent of four and an educator who helped nudge the Montgomery County school district in Maryland toward a more inclusive curriculum.
She and others got the district to send teachers and administrators to a special Ramadan celebration each fall at local mosques marking the holiest month of the Muslim calendar. The teachers ate lunch there and spoke to parents and students about Islam and how it intersects with the school day, particularly what it feels like to fast during the day while other children eat.
Now, her kids and other Muslim students sit at a cafeteria table doing homework, playing games or just talking during lunch.
That's the kind of simple accommodation that Aliya Rohani wishes every Muslim student could have.
"I don't want to be hated by other people," said Rohani, who attends the Al-Noor School in Brooklyn and said she was harassed by non-Muslims after 9/11. "I didn't do anything wrong. I would go home to my mom and cry. I started saying, `No, I'm not Arabic.' But I don't want to deny who I am."
Perhaps one of the topics could be the boy who was flogged to death last year in Iran for breaking his fast.
Why haven't you contacted one of the Christian aid groups to get help in convencing your granddaughters school what they are doing is wrong?
People of all religions should be permitted a quiet time and place to pray during their school or working day, without interruption or harassment. This is a reasonable accommodation. During lunch or break at work, on the person's personal time.
We have a winner!
Aaaarrrrrr! I should have read the whole article before I made my first comment. Now I realize that this post needs a BARF ALERT.
Great care should be exercised when selecting a horse to pull your wagon.
I guess we'll see now if the Left is really anti-religious or just anti-Christian.
Ten years from now they'll be demanding that the other students not eat in the cafeteria in front of the Muslim kids.
I know what the Muslim agenda is - and I believe Christian parents are going to rise up and DEMAND THEIR CHILDREN BE ALLOWED TO PRAY AND BRING THEIR BIBLES TO SCHOOL - I'll bet you - if the parents make the demands loud enough - it will put a stop to the muslim folly.
Because my granddaughters don't go to school there anymore. They have moved to another city. At this time, I don't know much about the current schools .. but you can believe I will find out.
If they can pray, then so can the Christians.
ACLU come forth!
You are correct - but in liberal areas - parents don't see anything wrong with it. When the muslims take over their communities - maybe they will wake up.