Islamic schools in the United States have been criticized by some American media outlets for teaching religious intolerance and promoting hatred in the minds of their students. It has been alleged that their programs do not fully embrace the ideals of citizenship, pluralism, and democracy. Their critics also claim that these institutions adopt imported curricula that encourage violence against non-Muslims.
This study was undertaken, not to counter these allegations, but to present an objective and deep understanding of Muslim schooling in these United States to the American educators interested in religious education in general and in Islamic education in particular. An important contribution towards this understanding is to find out the extent to which the educational experience of Islamic schools reflects the ideals of democracy, pluralism, and the common good of society. In addition, this study sought to reveal the diversity and complexity of Islamic schools and the various interpretations by Muslim educators of the nature and practice of Islamic education in the American context.
The purpose of this empirical study was to determine how Muslim educators from a number of schools simultaneously address both of the following goals: (a) to educate students according to the teachings of Islam in order to be good Muslims, and (b) to prepare students academically and socially in order to be good American citizens who contribute to the common good of society. This study sought to describe how a Muslim school provides an educational experience that conforms to Islamic teachings, and at the same time prepares students to be contributing individuals to the common good of the American society. The purpose of this research was to determine how a Muslim school simultaneously addresses these two important goals: namely to educate students to be good Muslims and good American citizens.
A sample of three schools in the Midwest was selected for the study based on their years of operation, grade levels, diversity, accreditation, and access. The researcher interviewed Muslim educators to elicit their responses to questions regarding mission statements and goals of the school, curriculum, teaching and learning, school-parents relationships, and school-community relations. In addition, observations and collection of archival data were used to find answers to the five research questions.
The findings of the study have provided evidence that Muslim schools are one more chapter in the history of religious diversity and pluralism in America. Muslim schools bring together many immigrants from different countries of the world and connect families, students, and teachers to a common religious identity and a common aspiration to be full members of a modern society and citizens in a democracy. These schools represent a special blend of practical educational achievement and spiritual enrichment in an atmosphere that is tolerant and open to the larger society.