Uzair Mudaqi gripped his No. 2 pencil and practiced writing his letters on the wide, horizontal lines that stretched across the white paper in front of him.
And although a primary-colored ABC's carpet lay across the floor, Uzair, 5, wasn't working on the English alphabet. Instead, he focused on forming Arabic characters.
The kindergartner is one of Al Yaqeen's 21 students. The Prospect Street school opened just over a year ago and is Connecticut's second Islamic elementary school. The other is in Windsor.
Next door to Uzair's class, first-graders were studying English. Specifically, adjectives, one student pointed out on Tuesday. In the classroom visitors could hear a pin drop. "English Test. No Talking," was written on the board.
There are no belly-baring T-shirts, hip-hugging cargos or DC sneakers worn here. The dress code reveals subdued uniforms and no adornments. Headwear, though, is a must. Girls are required to wear a hijab, or head scarf, and boys sport a white crocheted prayer cap, known as a kufi.
Administrator Mohamed Ben Haj Frej said the school teaches reading, writing and arithmetic just like any other school, but incorporates Arabic language studies and Qura'nic and Islamic studies as well. He said to understand the Quran one needs to know Arabic.
The students and the seven teachers work out of the United Muslim Mosque in the city's Hillside neighborhood. But Ben Haj Frej said they are seeking to move to a larger space. The students have eight classrooms to use. "We believe these kids deserve a better place," he said.
And, he added, the academy can't receive full accreditation until it's in a more adept location. He said the teachers teach to an arduous curriculum and are assessed by the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, or ITBS. (MORE)