Thursday, August 17, 2006

How Private is Too Private?

Is a school that requires boys to do nothing but memorize the Koran all day acceptable in America? Ann Althouse spotlighted such a private Muslim school in NYC,

The carpeted room is full of children in skullcaps crouched on prayer mats, reciting verses from a holy text. Some mumble the words under their breath; others sing them out. They rock back and forth as they chant, their disparate voices blending into an ethereal melody. The children, ages 7 to 14, are full-time students, in class 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, even in the summer. But they are not studying math, science or English. Instead, they are memorizing all 6,200 verses in the Koran, a task that usually takes two to three years...

Because the task is so difficult, most of the children at the Muslim Center study only the Koran while they are enrolled in the class. Some parents try to tutor their children in other subjects on the side. But for the most part, it is after the children finish that they work to catch up in other subjects in preparation for going back to regular school.

The all boys school promises that if they are successful, they will gain the title of "hafiz", which earns special priviledges during Ramadan, and "guaranteeing entrance into heaven along with 10 people of his choosing." That's quite an incentive.

The article points out the obvious; that this would not be as out of place in countries such as Pakistan as it is here.
"This is very much influenced by traditions back home," said Imam Shamsi Ali, director of the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens, which started its own memorization school several years ago. He envisions the children in the school becoming not just religious leaders but doctors, lawyers and engineers, helping to bridge the gap between the Muslim world and American society. "We want them
to be leaders in all different kinds of roles.".
According to several Muslim parents they are not concerned about the lack of other academic subjects,
they are smart enough to make up the academic work. Some students from the class have, in fact, gone on to the city's best high schools, parents and school officials said.
The school does plan on adding two hours of academic training beginning this fall. However, the empahsis will still be on rote recitation and memorization of the Koran.

Ann Althouse asks the question,

At what point do you stop romanticizing another culture and start to see child abuse and plain violations of compulsory schooling laws? Surely, a Christian private school that dispensed with academic study (or threw in two hours) would catch hell....

No. The beauty and freedom of this country does not include the right to deprive children of schooling.

Interesting thoughts. But, are these children being denied "schooling"? By what definition? After watching the John Stossel expose, Stupid in America we saw that many public schools have equally dispensed with academics but for far less than memorizing the Koran. And considering the total depravity going on at another New York high school, chanting repetitively in Arabic seems quite tame by comparison. Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of Islam. Not at all. But the freedom of religion and the natural rights of parents applies to all religions, not just Christians.

The parents are well aware of the decisions they are making for their children, and they've chosen Islam above academics. One mother admitted that her son would be entering sixth grade doesn't even know his multiplication tables.
But the beauty of this country, Mrs. Sherwani said, is that her son is free to have it both ways, to be steeped in Islam and be whatever he wants.
Yes, that is indeed the beauty of America - freedom of religion is a hallmark of a democracy. I wonder when they'll try it in the Middle East?

And for the students who make it through the memorization of the Koran and return to the public school, they'll probably catch on to the multiplication tables pretty quick. Sadly, what they won't be taught is what really makes America so beautiful. So we'll have a collection of students who know the Koran but nothing of the Constitution that allowed them to learn it so freely. That is the real threat.

(HT: Scott)

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