Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Muslim schools in the US: good, bad, or indifferent?

This story on msnbc caught my attention. I confess, I hadn't given any thought to the idea of Islamic schools in the U.S., but it makes sense that they exist.

I am leery of any school built around a religion, Muslim, Catholic, or otherwise. I don’t think approaching education from one particular religious world view jibes with true academic rigor. That's my own bias toward religious schools, just to be up front about it.

Now, on to the point. I'm dismayed by the poll results at the end of this story. Over 60% of respondents expressed concern about the rise of Islamic schools in the US because it could encourage Muslim separatism.

I have to wonder: did anyone ever express that concern about Catholic schools and Catholic separatism? I know there was concern about JFK as a presidential candidate, that he would defer to the Pope. But certainly now, there is no such objection to Catholic schools that I've heard. The likeliest response is, "Well, Catholics don't blow people up." That argument for why Catholic schools don't raise the same concerns as Muslim schools might not go very far in the UK, especially Northern Ireland.

I don't think it's all that reasonable to fear that Muslim schools in the US could lead to a rise in Muslim separatism. We aren't talking about the kind of madrassas we've heard about in Afghanistan. But if non-Muslim US citizens react to Muslim schools with hostility and fear, well that just might create a self-fulfilling prophecy. The surest way to make a group feel like they're not wanted and thus separate themselves from the whole is, well, to tell them they're not wanted.


Burt Likko said...

... did anyone ever express that concern about Catholic schools and Catholic separatism?

The answer is pretty much "yes," and it took the Supreme Court to put a stop to it.

S said...

Thanks. I was going to get around to researching that question, but just hadn't done it yet. I thought there probably was some unfortunate history like that. And, look, today we live quite harmoniously with Catholics and they don't try to bomb their fellow Americans.

BellsforStacy said...

My problem with them is what they teach the girls. The article doesn't go into much depth on that but it did say they segregate them, girls on one side, boys on the other, and after 5th grade the girls have to cover up.

I'm not convinced they don't offer separate teaching to the genders as well.

I'm not a big fan of private school in general, and I know the new trend is to have separate schools for boys and girls (they are trying this in Louisville and having success) because the kids are less distracted. I don't know how I feel about that. I want the best opprotunity for kids to learn, and I want to protect my son from predatory girls, but ... I went to a coed schools and I was okay. But Islamic schools in general would have to prove to me that they are not perpetuating the belief that women are inferior.

And if they make the girls cover up their faces ... well I'm already opposed.

S said...

Trust me, Stacy, I have the same visceral responses to the gender issues that you do.

But, of course, we can't tell private schools what their dress code can be, especially if it relates to religious beliefs.

I'm with you on preferring coed. (At least, I sensed that's where you came down.) At some point, boys and girls have to merge in the world, so I don't see how keeping them separate at school helps anything.

BellsforStacy said...

I agree with you.

It just makes me nuts. The world does TERRIBLE things in the name of religion. And the other two major religions (Christianity and Judaism) seem to be "controlled" for lack of a better word whereas Islam dictates what entire nations do militarily, judicially, and socially. And because it's their "Religion" no one bats an eye when a rape victim is stoned, a gay man is murdered, or a young woman is a victim of an "honor killing" because she wore a tank top.

So the slippery slope - for me - starts at making women wear scarves. If it's dress code, the men have to wear them too. Or something. I dont know.

Increasingly I have no tolerance for "peaceful Islam." Because even "peaceful Islam" believes in the murder of women if she is raped, or if she is in the company of a man not her husband in public. And a religion that is so brutal towards women in it's basic tenants is not peaceful at all.

Not saying Christianity is all rainbows. But there isn't much in the new testament about murdering for any reason. In fact it's mostly turn the other cheek.

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