Faith-based schools, scouting have integrating effects on U.S. Muslims

Second-generation American Muslim parents value Muslim schooling and Boy Scouts not only as a way for their children to retain their faith but also as a way to join the academic and professional class, according to research by Rebecca Karam. She presented an ethnographic study of two K-8 Muslim schools in Michigan and the scouting programs they sponsor at a seminar at the Committee on Religion at City University of New York in early December, which was attended by RW. Karam found that the parents valued spirituality over ethnic traditions and were strongly anti-isolationist in their outlook. They tended to approve of their children continuing with secular education after graduating from these schools (there are few Muslim high schools in the U.S.). Most of the conflicts that these parents experienced were not with their children but with their own parents over issues such as the latter’s opposition to celebrating Halloween or holding yoga classes in the schools.

Karam found that 30 percent of the teachers in the schools were non-Muslims and that religious education classes included an introduction to the world’s religions. A relatively high proportion of the Muslim teachers were white converts. The school’s scouting programs are likewise seen as stepping-stones to integration and success in mainstream society, as well as a promotion of patriotic activity and sentiments. Men run these Boy Scout programs more frequently than most scouting programs and infuse them with Islamic teachings. Although Karam conducted her research only a few months ago, she added that the election of Donald Trump and his more critical stance on Islam was already having an impact on the parents. They are more concerned with bullying and conflicts coming from anti-Islamic prejudice than was the case when she started her research last year.