In recent times, madrassas, or schools, have been given a negative image and are stereotyped for preparing anti-Western Muslim minds. I am happy to know that another Muslim school is in the making, a school that is working to combat these stereotypes. The Muslim Academy of Greater Orlando is expected to open soon in its beautiful facility on Apopka Vineland Road.
The first American schools began with faith-based education in which Latin and knowledge of the Bible were required of all students. Today, our country continues to promote faith-based education, allowing school choice to many students who would like to be in parochial schools.
I was fortunate to attend the first Muslim school in Orlando, the Muslim Academy of Central Florida, on Goldenrod Road. I received a well-rounded education that encompassed not only academia but respect, modesty and character development. I was taught to be a responsible and patriotic citizen of my country.
I’ll never forget one social-studies project, when my school hosted the first interfaith luncheon for students from the Hebrew Day School and Trinity Preparatory School. We had a meaningful dialogue between the followers of the three monotheistic religions of the world, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Friends of the Jewish and Christian faiths were surprised to see the many similarities among the three religions as opposed to differences.
I was privileged to be nominated as a delegate to attend the intensive training seminar on civic education and democracy, sponsored by the Florida Law Related Education Association. Delegates of other schools and faiths were surprised to learn that there were many similarities between the Constitution of Madinah, one of the first constitutions of the Muslims, and the U.S. Constitution. We combated some stereotypes with our discussion of democracy as the cornerstone of the first Islamic state.
Many of the first graduates of my school have now graduated from the fields of medicine, law, education and engineering. Each one of them is a law-abiding citizen, free from drugs and alcohol, and successfully leading modest lives.
If more schools like these are encouraged to be opened, we may in all reality be able to solve many of the problems that our schools are facing today. I am proud to be a graduate of the Muslim Academy of Central Florida.
Sumayya Qadri, 19, is a pre-med student at the University of Central Florida’s Burnett Honors College.