Magazine article Islamic Horizons

Karen's Legacy

Magazine article Islamic Horizons

Karen's Legacy

Article excerpt

IT ALL STARTED WHEN JUDI Amri, the mother of two students attending Islamic schools in Virginia, became increasingly concerned about the state of Islamic schools in North America.

"I put a notice out asking if anyone had an interest in doing research on Islamic schools or private schools," she recalls. After posting the message to the MSA listserv, the only one she knew of specifically for Muslims in the U.S., she received just one reply- from a lady in Michigan named Karen Keyworth (d. 2017).

After first communicating by phone and email, they decided to meet up. In an era now saturated with GPS and smartphones, their initial meeting seemed like a scene from an old film. Both were so excited at the prospect of finally seeing each other that they forgot to exchange information about what they looked like or what car they were driving. But these oversights didn't matter as they met by the roadside at the appointed time in that pivotal moment reminiscent of"Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" Actually, it was "Karen?" - "Judi?"

In the late 1990s, when they were planting the seeds of ISLA (https://theisla.org), Islamic schools existed in isolation from each other and were reinventing the wheel on their own. They lacked not just the history, but also the parochial organization and professionalism of similar private religious schools.

The most obvious and urgent need was to draw up a comprehensive listing ofIslamic schools. If a Muslim parent wanted to find a school, the only option was word of mouth. Karen and Judi thus decided to prioritize the creation of a conduit to connect the schools. But the more they looked into it, the more challenges they encountered.

Over the course of a year, the two women gathered information and made numerous calls - often meeting suspicion and resistance from the schools' authorities, who may have found their inquiries unusual or unnecessary. …

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