The Los Angeles Times contains this excellent piece on the use of educational instruction by Muslims as a means of defeating the isolation of Muslims in Europe and any unfamiliarity with Islam. The article profiles Muslim teachers who are interested in educating students not only about academic subjects, but about becoming comfortable with Muslims and Islam.
The article notes that a new breed of Muslim teachers are responding to the need for "Muslim instructors to teach Islam in public schools while being sensitive to Western culture" and the more general, if not pressing, need to "better integrate a Muslim community that has doubled since the 1980s but remains in a largely parallel [read: isolated or segregated?] universe."
Interestingly, the Muslim teachers mentioned in the article
personify the intersection of the Islamic creed and European life. They carry iPods and hang out at dance clubs. Many are more attuned to reality TV than the bloody politics of Iraq. But they also pray five times a day, wanting to be devout without being stereotyped as fanatical. Most believe they can keep their faith despite the increasingly secular atmosphere around them.The teachers have also been forced to debate the compatibility of Islamic prinicples and Western social mores. For example,
They debate issues such as arranged marriages, permitted by Islamic custom but deplored by German society, and the merits of separate gym classes for boys and girls in elementary schools to preserve the Muslim sense of modesty.Of course, the article also notes the problems that Muslims have been facing in Europe because of the global climate of terrorism: One man noted, "People today are too suspicious of Islam.... I came here to study. I have a beard, and they think I'm part of a sleeper terrorist cell."
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