During the next few weeks, multicultural trainer Afeefa Syeed will bring
third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students from a Muslim academy in Herndon,
Va., to nearby public schools to share the practices and beliefs of their
holiest month, Ramadan.
Syeed and the children will present the call to prayer in Arabic, display
prayer rugs and offer tastes of dates. In countless other classrooms across
the country, similar efforts will be made to educate students about the
time of fasting and spiritual reflection for adherents of the world’s
Ramadan, which likely will begin Oct. 15, depending on the sighting of the
new moon, is making more appearances in public school classrooms, thanks to
a series of new teacher training initiatives, an increased fascination with
Islam and the assurance that schools, if careful, can educate
impressionable children about religion without crossing a constitutional
The Council on Islamic Education, a nonprofit organization based in
California, plans to release an updated version of its booklet “Muslim
Holidays,” which was first published in 1997, for the more than 4,000
teachers nationwide who have used it.
The booklet, which contains lesson plan ideas and historical and cultural
background on Ramadan and other Muslim holidays, also outlines the various
state regulations governing instruction about religion in public schools
and discusses accommodations that schools can make to enable Muslim
students to observe the holiday.
Muslim educators note tremendous progress in education about Ramadan and
Islam in general in public schools, particularly since the terrorist
attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 – perpetrated by extremist Muslims – brought
Islam into the national spotlight.
Another reason for this success, some say, is an increased general
awareness in public education circles of what is constitutionally
appropriate to teach about religion…