Education Helps Defeat Hate

Article excerpt

How Muslim educators and students can combat the spread of Islamophobia on American campuses

Schools, colleges, universities, faith organizations, and individuals have been using education to teach about religious and cultural diversity. Valencia Community College, a two-year educational institution in Orlando, FL, has mandated that all education majors take a multicultural education course on racism, prejudice, ethnocentrism, and stereotypes in the context of the injustices experienced by minorities in this country. In the case of Islam and Muslims, this means correcting the prevailing inaccurate and stereotyped information.

The Human Resources Department designed a "Circles of Belonging" training team consisting of 25-30 faculty and staff members who, after being trained, trained their colleagues. Appropriate training manuals and curriculum were developed, workshops were conducted, and each employee (including the president and the vice president) had to attend at least one workshop. An extra effort was made to include a Muslim faculty member as a trainer. Whether it was a simple gesture as the handshake or a Muslim holiday, a cultural and religious awareness of Muslims and Islam was made at all levels of the training program.

Student seminars and workshops promoted understanding of Islamic culture by arranging visits to Islamic schools. After seeing first-hand the collaboration between religious and secular education, they realized that it is no different from what is found in Christian and Jewish parochial schools. Most were surprised to see the many similarities among the three monotheistic religions and said that they felt better equipped to deal with Muslim students.

Valencia's Muslim Students Association (MSA) reached out to humanities and religion professors, and Muslim students talked to classes and organized open forums. Focusing on the similarities among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam was the highlight of the student clubs' activities. …