“American Islam” as Seen Through an Non-American Muslim’s Eyes
I used to be at a park yesterday with a pair pals (different homeschooling mothers) and our youngsters. A fellow Muslim girl handed by the place we have been sitting and we exchanged salams.
She approached me and requested, “بتحكي عربي؟” (“Do you speak Arabic?”)
“Yes, I’m Egyptian,” I advised her in Arabic, shaking her hand and gesturing for her to take a seat and be a part of us. The remainder of the dialog flowed in Arabic, her Jordanian dialect and my Egyptian one. She gave me many necessary issues to consider on this trade.
She sat down subsequent to me and seemed round curiously on the giant group of children enjoying rowdily round us. “Are these all your children?” she requested.
“Yes, it’s the three of us moms here and these are our kids,” I replied.
“Are you guys related? Are you all Arab? How did you get together/ find each other?” she requested.
“We’re all friends,” I defined. I gestured at my two non-Arab companions close by, an African American mother and a Latina mother: “My friends here are not Arab. This sister is American, a convert actually, and this other sister is Hispanic.”
She was stunned and appeared riveted. “To be honest, I was so fascinated when I saw you guys from a distance and all your kids playing together so well. Black and white. I didn’t know there was a third ethnicity in there too!”
She advised me a bit about herself and her background. She was a Jordanian younger girl, 24 years outdated. Just arrived in America final yr from Jordan. She did not know the system right here but and was particularly confused by the varsity system. She seemed once more on the children, who have been now piled on high of each other (there are mashaAllah ten boys whole, so there tends to be loads of wrestling).
“Are they in school? Is today an American holiday?” she requested, in all probability questioning why all these school-aged youngsters have been roaming round at a park as a substitute of seated at desks in a classroom someplace.
“No, it’s not a holiday today. We homeschool (in Arabic: تعليم منزلي ).”
She gave me an intrigued look, fascinated. “What does that mean? I don’t know anything about this. Is homeschooling allowed? So your kids are not associated with *any* school at all? Who teaches them?”
“Me,” I stated merely. “I teach them. No, they are not associated with any school at all. It’s not necessary. Homeschooling is allowed and many families homeschool. I know that it’s not really a thing in our Arab countries. We don’t hear about homeschooling in Egypt, or in Jordan either. But here, homeschooling is a perfectly legal option and there are lots of homeschooling families alhamdulillah.”
She nodded, . “What do you teach them in your homeschool?”
“Quran mostly,” I answered. “We spend most our class time memorizing Quran, then learning tafseer, some hadith, and Arabic class, in that order. Then we also have an English class, math, science, and art. Some of these other classes are weekly, not daily. We also work on projects that the kids are interested in.”
“Why do you homeschool?” she requested the query I get requested essentially the most.
“I don’t want my kids to be raised by people I don’t know and don’t share core values with. That’s how it is in American public schools. I know because I went to American public schools. And it’s only gotten worse since I was in school. It used to be that you’d see boys and girls doing all kinds of things in the hallway at school, or sometimes hear kids swearing or using foul language. Nowadays, it’s escalated like crazy. Now it’s two girls or two boys doing all kinds of things in the hallway at school, and kids looking at porn on their phones and teaching one another immoral things. Not only is it the kids, but this over-sexualized and LGBT+- stuff has made its way into the school curriculum itself! It’s not just the kids, it’s in the textbook, the teachers! This is what they teach kids in school now. And this is only *one* of the reasons,” I advised her.
She nodded, understanding dawning on her face. “Yes, I did notice that the LGBT thing is big in America. That’s actually one of the first things I noticed immediately upon coming to this country. It’s one of the things I still haven’t gotten used to even though I’ve been here a whole year now,” she stated.
I requested her, “I know! It’s a huge culture shock. What were some of the biggest things that have shocked you, coming from Jordan to America?”
She thought for a second, then replied, “I’ve been shocked by the number of concessions ( تنازلات ) Muslims make in living here in this country. I hadn’t been aware of that in Jordan, and it caught me by surprise and I still haven’t gotten over it. I have two brothers in high school here, and they see all kinds of things in school and tell me about it. They are both forced to shake the hands of females, but it’s hard not to, because of the culture. We met some Jordanians here who told us that they use riba. We can’t look around without our eyes falling on some haram thing. It’s concession after concession. And I’m shocked at the Muslims here who seem totally fine with it, even though none of this is part of Islam!”
I shook my head, conscious about her ache. I really feel it too, however it was completely different to listen to such clear, sincere phrases coming from a Muslim who was freshly arrived from a Muslim, Arab nation and confronting the fact of “American Islam.”
What would this Jordanian woman say if she came upon that there are American Muslim “shaykhs” who encourage Muslims to carry fingers with homosexual activists? How would she react if she heard that well-known American Muslims hold insisting that as Muslims, we assist “the right” of individuals to interact freely in haram acts?
How way more shocked would she really feel when she heard that common American “imams” and “shaykhaz” have been pushing feminism prefer it was sweet to the Muslim inhabitants?
So I merely advised her, “You are absolutely right. I am still shocked at the same exact things, and I’ve been here for decades. It is just shocking. I hope I never get used to any of this or start thinking any of these things are normal. And this is another reason why I don’t allow my kids to enter these schools; I don’t want any of this to be normal for them, either.”
“Going to American schools every day will definitely normalize a lot of things,” she agreed. “I worry about my brothers. But alhamdulillah, they are older going into it. At least they were raised in Jordan and know enough not to be too swayed by the stuff they see here in these schools. I’d be frantic with worry if my brothers were in elementary school here, for example.”
“Yes, younger kids are more vulnerable. The first years of a child’s life are for building a foundation ( تأسيس ), and it needs to be done right, especially for us Muslims. Unfortunately, what sometimes happens in this country is that Muslim parents aren’t paying attention, and their kids enter non-Muslim schools from age 4 or 5 until age 18, and the change they undergo is drastic. It’s like entering a machine: you go into it a Muslim on the fitra, and come out the other end either barely still Muslim with warped views, or just an athiest or an agnost, والعياذ بالله. For me, homeschooling is not optional. It’s mandatory. I have no other choice. If it’s a choice between the deen of my kids and literally any other thing, there is no choice in the matter. They are my amana (أمانة ), my responsibility before Allah.”
She stunned me by saying, “You know, you are the minority here. You are not like the rest of the Muslims I’ve met so far in America. None of them do this homeschool thing. They send their kids to regular American schools and think nothing of it. They’re even a little proud maybe, that their kids are going to be American and learn to act and dress and speak like Americans. They care about the material ( الماديات ) and don’t seem too concerned about the effect of this society on their kids. They worry about things like if their kids will be able to fit in or not, if their kids will get good jobs or not, etc.”
Long after the dialog ended and the sister left, I sat pondering her phrases, her evaluation of the American Islam she was confronted with upon her arrival to America.