Connect with us

Education

Homeschooling: On NY Times’s Stereotyping

school.gifFor once, MM is slightly behind on an interesting and relevant news story – you can blame me for that, though! :)

The notorious Neil MacFarquhar recently wrote an article in the NYT about Muslims turning to homeschooling – with the now-typical negative slant, making it seem as though the only reasons for which Muslim parents choose to homeschool their children is to prepare their daughters for a lifetime of servanthood in their husbands’ households or to protect them from ever reading books about pigs.

As someone who has been homeschooled for years (since grade 6), along with my brothers, MacFarquhar’s article irritated me quite a bit – first there’s the obvious insulting insinuations against Muslims (making us seem isolationist, oppressive against women, etc.); and then there’s the total disregard for how homeschooling is a viable education option for not just Muslims, but many nonMuslims as well, for both moral/ religious and academic reasons. In fact, it’s been recorded and reported that homeschooled students do just as well as, if not better than, those who attend public or private schools. Colleges covet homeschoolers; this report from the ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education mentions that homeschooled students have parents with higher education, achieve high grades and are more likely to be enrolled in a grade or two above the rest of their public/ privately-schooled peers.

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

AlHamdulillaah, one of the sisters interviewed in the article has responded strongly and eloquently, pointing out the obvious distortions, manipulations, and outright lies evident in Mr. Farquhar’s piece of trash (as well as answering some questions people may have about homeschooling, like the whole “socialization” issue). (Hijab flutter to UmmZaid.)

Ms. Khan-Mukhtar’s letter to the Editor of the New York Times

Dear Editor,

I agreed to speak with Mr. MacFarquhar in hopes of getting some “truth” out there about why many Muslims are opting to homeschool. Imagine my dismay to find that, out of our lengthy discussion, he cherry-picked the one quote that was the least indicative of why my family chose to homeschool. To suggest that a decision as important as homeschooling was arrived at only out of a fear that “our kids might like pigs if they go to public school” was an insult not only to me but also to the readers of the NY Times. Mr. MacFarquhar admits that it was difficult to find willing interviewees, and he boldly suggests that the Muslims’ reticence might be out of a fear of being associated with homeschooled Al-Qaeda spokesmen. No, Mr. MacFarquhar, look in the mirror and you’ll see why many Muslims don’t believe the media comes to them in good faith.

Hina Khan-Mukhtar

Ms. Khan-Mukhtar’s Letter to Bay Area Muslim Home Schoolers

Thanks for being a voice of reason at a time when I (in particular) am feeling really disheartened and disillusioned. I’ve already emailed the reporter and he’s not responding (surprise, surprise).

It’s unnerving how easily the media can “take” what they want even if one sticks to one’s “talking points”. I tried really hard to stay away from religion and talked more about my experience as a public school teacher (where I wished I could have more one on one time with struggling students), my own children’s learning challenges (one son didn’t learn to read till after age 8 and, thanks to hs’ing, his self-esteem is still intact), the hs’ers ability to choose superior
educational materials (reading classics vs. basal readers in school), the lack of exposure to Islamic history curriculum in the public schools. “If one doesn’t know his history, how can he be proud of it? I grew up thinking the only thing Muslims contributed to civilization was algebra,” I said.

When the reporter asked me if we were worried about our kids growing up thinking everyone is bad and only they are good, I told him, “No, I don’t worry about that, because we don’t teach our children that only Muslims are the best. We teach them that Muslim values are the best. And Muslim values can be found in anyone anywhere. That’s why we teach our kids about Abraham Lincoln, Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King Jr., Benjamin Franklin, etc. That’s also why we teach our kids about Salauddin Ayubbi and Shah Jahan and Ibn Battuta. We don’t want our children thinking that Osama Bin Laden is the only one who represents their religion.” I mentioned how our kids have read “Number the Stars” this year (a book about the persecution of Jews in Denmark during WWII and a young Christian girl’s sacrifice for her best friend) and “In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson” (a book about a Chinese girl’s assimilation into American culture while retaining respect for her family’s back-home ways). We’re teaching our kids that we’re part of humanity and everyone faces the same type of challenges and problems that we as Muslims do.

He asked me about “socialization” (the most common question) and I mentioned Little League, Boy/Girl Scouts, working with the Contra Costa Food Bank during Ramadan, sending cookies and baskets to our neighbors on Xmas and Hannukah, planning a litter clean-up campaign in the neighborhood, future plans for working in a homeless shelter, etc.

When he asked me about why we chose homeschooling, I compared raising Muslim children to an eastern martial arts tradition (i.e. Karate, Tae Kwan Do, etc., something people in the West understand and respect). The homeschooling setting is a place where the kids have a teacher whom they look up to and where the teacher should embody the values he/she is trying to impart to the students. I said that there were three parts to raising a Muslim child — teaching about (1) Islamic jurisprudence (the do’s and don’ts of the religion ), (2) Muslim etiquette (how to behave in society), and (3) Muslim culture (poetry, singing, history, appreciating things of beauty in the world around us and reflecting on God’s blessings in everything we see, etc.). Some (not all) of the madrassas we hear about in the news tend to focus on the Islamic jurisprudence and none of the beauty and that’s why we see individuals who have skewed views of the world (this was in response to his question about how we were hoping to avoid creating the types of egotistical Muslims we’ve seen doing damage in the world).

When asked about civic engagement, I told him that we were trying to raise Muslims who would be a source of pride not only to their fellow Muslims but also their fellow Americans. We’re trying to raise the future leaders of America, not leaders of Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. The Muslim way of prosletyzing isn’t to go knocking on doors trying to teach others about their faith but to live a life that is so full of dignity and grace that others are attracted to them on their own. My own opinion is that these values are hard to teach properly when they’re only limited to Sunday School mornings or after 4 pm when the kids return from “real school”. Every moment of the day is a teaching opportunity and hs’ers seize those moments to teach grammar and math along with reflections on what it means to be a proper Muslim and how to behave with peers and adults and those younger than us. I mentioned that we love America, that this is our home and we’re not going anywhere, and we want to produce productive citizens who can represent Americans and Muslims in the best manner possible. I told him about how we all value the ideal that the public school system represents — that every citizen is entitled to a free education. How we support that ideal, yet we are grateful that this wonderful country also gives us the option to educate our children in the manner we choose as best. I told him that there just aren’t enough hours in the day and there’s so much to teach; that’s one of the reasons hs’ing suits our lifestyle, we can pick and choose what we focus on.

I mentioned to him my own experiences of growing up in the States, going to school here, and how there were many things I wasn’t allowed to do. I told him that I wanted my own children to hear more “yeses” than “no’s” in their educational experience so that they wouldn’t grow up viewing their religion as a reason for being kept from doing “fun things” all the time. I told him that I wanted my kids to recognize that they have a dual identity — an American identity and a Muslim one — and that those two identities can be in harmony with one another and not in conflict. He asked me for an example where I thought there could be a potential for my kids to feel “left out” and I gave him the short “Why I Like Pigs” example from my child’s kindergarten class. I had been debating about homeschooling at the time and when I saw those booklets on each of the student’s desks, all the memories of always being the one who was “different” came flooding back to me, and I took it as a sign that I should be providing an environment (at least in the early years) where my kids felt comfortable and strong in their religion before making them have to explain why they couldn’t do this or that all the time. I shared my hesitation about telling that story, I even emailed him later telling him that I was concerned that that incident would be misrepresented.

And, lo and behold, I was right. Out of everything I told him, that’s the one part he used, and the impression for readers is that I came to a decision as important as homeschooling only because I was afraid, “Oh no! If my kids go to public school, they might like pigs!” How insulting.

I told him over and over about my concerns about how Muslims and home schoolers are portrayed in the media, how the only reason I was speaking to him was to get some “truth” out there and to clear up some misconceptions.

He did send me a list of my quotes that he was planning to use (some that I was actually satisfied with) with the mention that some may be edited due to limited space. When the article came out, all the quotes I was hoping would make it were cut and the one that I didn’t want (the pigs story) stayed in. Gee, wonder why? I am grateful, however, that he accommodated me in one matter. In the original list, he mentioned that I am part of a co-op that teaches Quran and Arabic. I wrote him back and asked him to mention one of the many secular subjects we teach as well — cooking, sewing, carpentry, tae kwan do, art, science, history, etc. He did work with me on that. (In retrospect, I remember him chuckling and asking, “So the girls learn cooking and sewing?” and I responded heartily, “Oh no, boys too! Learning how to stitch has been great for my son’s fine motor skills!”…I had no idea what angle he was coming from, now I do, after reading about his take on the Lodi community.)

Anyway, I mentioned here some of the things I said not to “defend” myself but to offer some “talking points” to others who are thinking of continuing the dialogue. I’m out (at least for now).

Wassalaam,
Hina

Related:

From Home-School to “Real School”

Homeschool FAQ

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Zainab bint Younus is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women's issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She holds a diploma in Islamic Studies from Arees University, a diploma in History of Female Scholarship from Cambridge Islamic College, and has spent the last fifteen years involved in grassroots da'wah. She was also an original founder of MuslimMatters.org.

#Islam

30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 21: The Strong Believer

Now that we have learnt about how we come to success, let’s now talk about the strong believer.

Question: Who can tell me who was a strong believer during the time of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)?

Yes! There are so many of them, like Umar, Hamza, Khalid ibn Walid, az-Zubayr ibn Awwaam, Nusaibah, and Ali [may Allah be pleased with them all].

Before Umar ibn al-Khattab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) became Muslim, the Muslims would not pray publicly in front of the Ka’bah. They would be beaten and hurt if they attempted to do so. But, when Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) became Muslim, he went directly in front of the Ka’bah to pray. When the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded the Muslims to perform the hijrah (migration from Mecca to Medina), many Muslims did so at night so as not to be seen by the Qurayshi tribes that wanted to keep them in Mecca. Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) on the other hand, declared his migration and threatened anyone that attempted to stop him. Abdallah ibn Mas’ud raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: 

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

“Umar’s submission to Islam was a conquest, his migration was a victory, his khalifa (period of rule) was a blessing. I have seen when we were unable to pray at the Ka’bah until Umar submitted. When he submitted to Islam, he fought them (the pagans) until they left us alone and we prayed.”

There is a phrase in the Qur’an where Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) commands Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Prophet Yahya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) to take the book with determination; فَخُذْهَا بِقُوَّةٍ  (fa khuth-ha bi quwwa) [take it with power] . 

Question: What do you think it means to take the book with determination, or with power?

While the Qur’an is definitely a book that is soothing for our souls, it is also supposed to empower us and strengthen us, so that we can then go forth and empower others by it as well. 

When we practice what is in the Qur’an, it allows us to remain upright, and builds our spiritual muscles as well. Just like you have to train to grow your physical muscles, you have to keep training for spiritual muscles too. 

Question: What are some ways we can train our spiritual muscles?

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading

#Islam

30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 20: Come to Success

Now that we have learnt about how Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Mercy encompasses all things, let’s now talk about coming to success.

Whenever we hear the adhan (call to prayer), there is a part where the mu’adhin (person calling the athan) calls out: “حي على الصلاة” hay ‘ala as-salaah (come to prayer). Then he says: “حي على الفلاح”- hay ‘ala al-falaah.” 

Question: Does anyone know what hay ‘ala al-falaah means?

It means ‘come to prayer, come to success.’ Is that how we usually think of success?

Question: What is your definition of success?

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Yes, sometimes we think that having a good job, a nice house, and a loving family are the measurements of our success. There may be some truth to that  for this world, but how does Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) measure our success?

Do you know that there is a surah in the Qur’an called “The Believers” (Al- Mu’minun), and that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) promises that the believers will be successful? He says:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ 

“Indeed, the believers have attained success” [23; 1]

Let’s dig a little deeper into the Arabic word for success: فلاح (falaah). Do you know that a derivative of that word فَلَّاح (fallaah) means a farmer? 

Question: What are some of the things that a farmer needs to do everyday?

Farmers need to fertilize their soil, plant seeds, pull out weeds, protect their plants from predators, and water their crops. Do you think that’s a lot of work? Do you think it’s easy to be a farmer? I want you to imagine a time when farmers couldn’t turn on a hose to water their plants. They completely relied on rain to irrigate their crops. So, they could do all of this hard work, but if there was a drought, their crops wouldn’t be able to survive. To be a farmer requires a deep sense of تَوَكُّل, tawakkul (reliance on Allah)

So, part of success is hard work, and a big part is also knowing that nothing happens without the will of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). That’s why when the muadhin tells us to come to salaah (prayer) and to come to success, we respond by saying: 

لَا حَوْلَ وَلَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِٱللَّٰهِ‎

“There is no power nor strength except by Allah.”

We can only come to prayer and we can only achieve success if Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wills it. The only thing in our control is the amount of effort we exert in the process. 

So, let’s be farmers; let us try our best to plant good seeds, water them, nourish them, and pray that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), places baraka (blessings) in all of our efforts! 

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading

#Islam

30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 19: My Mercy Encompasses All Things

Now that we have learnt about when the angels surround us, let’s now talk about how Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy encompasses all things.

We say بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ  (bismillah Ar-Rahman ar-Raheem) a lot, right? It means ‘in the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.’ 

We say it when we pray, before we eat, and we’re encouraged to say it before we begin any new task. But do we really understand what rahma (mercy) means? 

Question: What do you think rahma means?

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Do you know that the word rahma comes from the root word, رحم (rahim), which means womb? 

Question: Who can tell me what a womb is?

That’s right. A baby is usually in their mommy’s womb for 40 weeks. The baby gets all the nourishment it requires; the temperature in the womb is perfect, the nutrients are always administered, it is safe and warm. All the baby has to do is grow, and alhamdulillah all its needs are being met. 

Question: How do you think the womb relates to Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy?

Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy is constantly surrounding us like a safety net. That doesn’t mean that we’ll never experience any pain, but Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is constantly showing us mercy with every breath we take. Even blinking is a mercy from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that we don’t even have to think about. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) even has more mercy for us than a mother has for her own child! 

One day the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was walking with a group of his companions, and they passed by a woman who was frantically looking for her child. She would take any child to her breast and try to feed him/her. Then the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said to the companions: “Do you think that this lady can throw her son in the fire?” We replied, “No, if she has the power not to throw it (in the fire).” The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) then said, “Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is more merciful to His slaves than this lady to her son.”

And guess what? There’s even more mercy in the hereafter than we’re experiencing right now. 

Salman al-Farisi reported: The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Verily, on the day Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) created the heavens and earth, He created one hundred parts of mercy. Each part can fill what is between heaven and earth. He made one part of mercy for the earth, from it a mother has compassion for her child, animals and birds have compassion for each other. On the Day of Resurrection, He will perfect this mercy.” [Sahih Muslim]

99 parts of mercy on the Day of Judgment! That is one reason why it’s so important to have a good opinion of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)! Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) even tells us in Surat Al-A’raaf:

وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ ۚ

“My mercy encompasses all things” (Surat Al-A’raaf; 156]

And you all, my dears, are all encompassed by Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy, alhamdulillah. 

 

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading
.
.

MuslimMatters NewsLetter in Your Inbox

Sign up below to get started

Trending