If your children are in a public school, chances are that their teachers are not Muslims. This may or may not present a major problem.
Keep in mind, not all public school teachers are the same. Some may be aggressive in their proselytizing and may find your child a prime candidate. Others may be very anti-religion or anti-Islamic. Most may not care about religion at all. And most would be accommodating to your child's beliefs and religious practices.
We as Muslim parents can do several things to try to insure that our children get the right kind of education at public schools.
Meet your children's teachers
If several Muslim parents in the community make the teachers aware of some of the special situations of Muslim children, it is possible that kind and caring teachers will be more sensitive when discussing history or events that involve Muslims, or when dealing with holidays.
Attend PTA meetings to contribute to the school
The participation of Muslim parents may influence the school and the teachers to stop or modify un-Islamic activities or negative information about Islam.
- Show appreciation if your children's non-Muslim teachers show concern for the needs of Muslim children.
- Always be kind and considerate when talking with your children's teachers.
- Let the teachers know about the problems your children will face with non-Islamic holidays and gym classes.
Perhaps the teacher will find a way to make your child more comfortable during these times. In an article I recently read in The Message International, Aasia Ali, a young Muslim girl, recounted how she informed her gym teacher that she was not allowed to wear shorts, but found the gym teacher uninterested. When the young girl told her father about her problem, he talked with the principal and explained the situation. The principal then excused her from wearing shorts in gym. She then had another problem: the gym locker rooms where the girls changed clothes were not private. She told her father, and he again spoke to the principal. The principal again took care of the problem (Feb. 1990, 35).
Read your children's textbooks to see what they are being taught
If you discover any misinformation or anything that disturbs you, put your objections, along with the appropriate corrections, in writing. Arrange a meeting with your child's teacher and the Director of Curriculum to discuss the problem. Always be polite and present yourself as someone who wants to help, not as a critic. They may or may not agree to implement your corrections. If they agree, thank them for their consideration. If they reject your corrections, you should seek additional help from an Islamic organization that deals with this kind of issue. One such organization is CAIR.
Work with local Muslim organizations to improve the school's curriculum
Don't feel that the only time you should get involved is when you see negative information in your children's books. Take the initiative to work with the school and the teachers to add positive information about Islam.
Let your children's teachers know that you can provide Muslim guest speakers to come to the school and make a presentation about Islam and Muslims.
Approach the principal when discriminated against
If you see prejudice or racism in any of your children's teachers, talk to the principal about it.
It's better to go alone the first time so as not to appear confrontational. If this doesn't help, enlist the support of other Muslim families and Muslim organizations. Don't just ignore it. To report discrimination, you should contact CAIR.
Teachers are more likely to treat Muslim children better and be more sensitive to their issues if they know that Muslim parents are watching and are concerned about their children. By getting involved in your children's education, you will not only be helping your children, but all the Muslim children in the school.