Lamis Srour, in her third year of teaching in Dearborn, Mich., came to believe it was critical to bring her students to Philadelphia, to the Liberty Bell. So she organized the school’s first-ever trip to the bell this spring. “They do not feel they are considered or feel as ‘American’ as their peers, especially after 9/11 and the Iraq war,” explained Srour, 28, who teaches fifth grade at a public school where 95 percent of her students are Arab-born or children of Arab immigrants. “They discuss the war from an us-vs.-them mentality, not because they choose to feel this way, but because it’s the reality in which they live.” And so she helped run the bake sales, spaghetti dinner and raffles needed to make it happen. “I really wanted them to experience Washington and Philadelphia because I wanted them to take ownership over the country that they are citizens of,” she said.
Srour has struggled with her own identity as a religious Muslim and an American, proud of her country’s roots in liberty and democracy. Her parents left Lebanon in 1972, during hard times there, and moved to Detroit to start over, build a better life for their family. Her father took a job at Ford Motor Co. He just retired. Theirs is a classic American story. Srour, who was born in America, attended Catholic school. But in 1991, around the time of the first Gulf War, she wanted to begin wearing the veil. The Catholic high school permitted her to practice Islam, but not physically to show it. So she transferred to public school her junior year – and began wearing a hijab. Her parents first opposed her decision, and so did her five sisters. They thought it would make life harder for her. But she was adamant. (MORE)