The ring tone of a popular hip-hop song begins to play from a cell phone left on a classroom desk. The 15 or so high school students kneeling on the floor keep praying, ignoring the interruption.
It’s 2:45 p.m. on a Wednesday. The students who missed the start of prayer are standing outside the classroom where English is taught during the school day, waiting to join a meeting of the Mansfield Summit High School’s Muslim Student Association.
About 20 students take their seats, young women on one side, men on the other.
Assistant Principal Catherine Cobos estimates that some 60 Muslim students attend the high school, where enrollment hit around 2,800 in the 2006-07 school year. Up to 25 of them regularly attend meetings of the 1½-year-old organization.
“We were having some issues with misconceptions, the whole 9/11 thing, so we started the MSA so we could teach other people about who we are,” said Sima Awaida, the student president of Summit’s MSA.
The students eventually decided they needed to focus more on learning about Islam themselves, Ms. Cobos said, so they decided to shift the focus of the club.
Meetings typically begin with a student-led prayer, followed by a short lesson prepared by one of the students. At a recent meeting, Sima spoke about forgiveness, quoting the Quran and advising her classmates to take forgiveness seriously.