Written by Lana Iskandarani
“We cannot leave our students in a situation in which they have to defend themselves in the face of racism and religious discrimination.” (Elbardouh, N. 2016)
Islamophobia is a very important issue that should be addressed nowadays in the classroom. Similar to any of the world’s major religions, students should be aware of what Islam is, its principles, and the behaviors of real Muslims. They should also be aware of the political history which led to Islamophobia.
Islamophobia is the best word to describe the injustice towards, and discrimination against, Muslims. It is a continuous problem that is often ignored in Western societies and impacts men and women of all ages, appearances, and races who identify themselves as Muslims, or are closely acquainted with a Muslim.
The 1997 Runnymede Trust report defines Islamophobia as “a useful shorthand way of referring to dread or hatred of Islam—and, therefore, to fear or dislike of all or most Muslims” (Runnymede Trust, 1997, p. 1).
A study by Steve Garner and Saher Selod discuss’ the racialization of Muslims and the connection between racism and Islamophobia. Both scholars believe that “religion can be raced” and came up with: “Muslims have historically been one of these groups that experience racism, as have other faith-based groups, most obviously, Jews. Their racialization is accomplished not only by reference to religion but other aspects of culture such as physical appearance (including but not limited to dress). Muslims can be racialized, and the ways (plural) in which this occurs can be understood as constituting Islamophobia. Islamophobia is therefore a specific form of racism targeting Muslims, and racialization is a concept that helps capture and understand how this works, in different ways at different times, and in different places” (Garner, S. & Selod, S. 2014). Looking past race and physical features is an important concept we need to stress to our students; all people deserve to be judged by their actions and character, not race or appearance.
Our students should know that “in recent years, Islamophobia has evolved from a primarily political concept toward one increasingly deployed for analytical purposes. Researchers have begun using the term to identify the history, presence, dimensions, intensity, causes, and consequences of anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim sentiments”(Bleich, E. 2011). The word had gained a meaning and purpose in multiple scopes.
Since the attack of 9/11 Islamophobia has increased in America and Western countries. It is important to clarify to our students that groups like ISIS or Taliban don’t represent Islam. The majority of ISIS victims are Muslims who live in Muslim and Arab countries like Syria and Iraq. Vast majority of Taliban targets are also the Muslims of Afghanistan. Muslims suffer from such radical groups in Muslim countries much more than people in the west and America suffer. The misunderstanding/misinformation of this concept leads to characterizing all Muslims into one group, and foregoing the fact that vast majority of Muslims are not involved in these violent acts but are in fact negatively impacted by them.
The media has a big effect on increasing Islamophobia. It addresses the attacks in France as an example, but ignores the attacks in the Arab and Islamic world which generally carry a much higher death toll. Attacks on both fronts are made by the same terrorist groups. Another reason education is so important when dealing with such tense topics; students need to learn how to decipher and digest the information media is feeding them.
Muslim Americans and immigrants, including students, feel uncomfortable defending themselves and their religion. At the same time, they don’t feel safe because of the hate crimes which happen from time to time against Muslim communities and individuals such as burning mosques, pulling hijabs off women’s heads, or even calling the Muslim students “terrorists”.
My List of Islamophobia Books:
Muslim Kids as Heroes:
Khan, Rukhsana, and Christiane Kromer. King for a Day. New York: Lee & Low, 2014. Print.
A highly-commended SABA, and beautifully illustrated book by Rukhsana Khan tells us the story of a young disabled boy, Malik, who has been planning for the spring festival of kites in Lahore, Pakistan, by making a special kite for the competition. Malik is a meditative kid who stands up to the bully, works with his siblings, and shows gentleness to a young girl. The book is for K – 3rd grade.
King for a day is a high-quality book because it has many lessons to teach the kids. The main lesson is that people with disabilities have amazing abilities. It is great to teach kids how treat bullies, and how to be nice to others.
The story is in the Muslim country Pakistan, teachers and parents should let the students know that people in Muslim countries are like any other people in the world; have festivals, work hard, don’t accept bullying, and are nice to others.
Williams, Karen Lynn, Khadra Mohammed, and Doug Chayka. Four Feet, Two Sandals. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans for Young Readers, 2007. Print.
This story is about Muslim hero kids. Lina is a ten years old girl who lives in a refugee camp in Pakistan. She is overjoyed when she finds a sandal that fits her foot perfectly when relief workers bring used clothing to her camp. She soon learns that another young refugee, Feroza, has the matching shoe. Lina and Feroza decide to share the sandals. The girls discover the true meaning of friendship and sacrifice. This story honors the experiences of refugee children, whose daily survival is marked by hesitation and fear. This book is for ages 7 to 10.
In this book, reminding the readers that friendship is the most important, and the beautiful illustration that portrays the strength, courage, and hope of refugees around the world makes is a very high quality book.
Teachers and parents can use Four Feet, Two Sandals for social studies, history, geography, art, science, language arts, religion, and culture. It has many themes as friendship, sharing, refugees (the word “refugee” should be used in the same manner as the word “immigrant”), and loss.
Khan, Rukhsana, and Sophie Blackall. Big Red Lollipop. New York: Scholastic, 2012. Print.
Rukhsana Khan’s clever story and Sophie Blackall’s irresistible illustrations make for a powerful combination in this fresh and surprising picture book. This delightful story is a deep and well observed journey into immigrants and identity.
Rubina has to bring her little sister to the first birthday party she is invited to, obeying her mother’s wishes. Both girls go. The little Sana demands to win every game, and after all she steals Rubina’s prized party favor, a red lollipop. What should unhappy Rubina do? This book is for children who are in K – 3rd grade.
The way Khan created the story and the message of it about the culture conflict that something could happen to anyone in anywhere, and the details of Sophie Blackall’s illustration makes it selected by the New York Public library as one of the 100 greatest books in 100 years.
This book can be used to teach children that Muslim people celebrate the same things people celebrate in the USA. It is also good to teach them how it would feel when someone comes to a different country.
Khan, Michelle. The Hijab Boutique. Markfield, Leicestershire: Islamic Foundation, 2014. Print.
An amazingly written book by the award-winning Indian Canadian writer Michelle Khan. The story is about a young Muslim girl Farah who is growing up in Los Angeles. Farah has to present an object that defines her mother for International Women’s Day. Compared to her friends’ talented mothers, what can she share about her modest mother? Learning about her mother allows her to explore her own culture and religious identity. In addition to that, Farah is surprised that her mother was a business woman who put her career on hold to raise her daughter. This book is for eight years old and above.
The meaningful story about strength, faith, and womanhood, and the inspirational message of it that what is different about us makes us unique makes the book selected as a high quality one. It can be used for the social studies class to teach children that the first priority of Muslim mothers is to raise their children, and to teach that wearing hijab is for faith.
Nine, Ten A September 11 Story. N.p.: Turtleback, 2017. Print.
The award-winning author Nora Raleigh Baskin wrote this book about four middle school kids who live in different parts of the USA and don’t know each other. Their life was going well until September 11, 2001. What happened changed their lives indefinitely. The way Nora wrote this novel about their stories makes it unforgettable. This book is for 8 to 12 years old.
What makes the story great is that it is told from the perspective of four different authentic characters who live in four different parts of the country. The students are Christian, Jew, and Muslim, black, white, male, and female. All were affected deeply by what happened on 9/11.
This is a very good book to use in the social studies’ class to let students understand that Muslim people are victims and affected; like others; by what happened on 9/11.
Inspiring Muslim Readers and Thinkers:
1001 Inventions & Awesome Facts from Muslim Civilization. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Kids, 2013. Print.
This picture book is very informative and investigates contributions of Muslim scholars, philosophers, artists, scientists and more. By reading the book, you will discover so many inventions from the Muslim civilization that are used today such as soaps and cosmetics.
The true scientific and historic collected information and the beautiful illustration make the book highly recommended to be used at schools and to be owned by Muslim and Non-Muslim families as a piece of treasure to keep for their children.
This book is great to be taught in the science classroom. Teachers and parents can find some lesson plans and activities to use for primary, secondary, and high school at http://www.1001inventions.com/education.
Al-DiÌ„n, FaÌ„tÌ£imah Sharaf, and IntÌ£ilaq MuhÌ£ammad Ê»Ali. The Amazing Discoveries of Ibn Sina. Toronto, Ontario: Groundwood /House of Anansi, 2015. Print.
Born in Persia more than a thousand years ago, Ibn Sina was a philosopher, scientist, and physician who made significant discoveries. She specialized in the field of medicine, and wrote more than one hundred books during her career.
Ibn Sina was a very bright child who loved to read and memorize the Qur’an by the age of ten. Accelerating in school, he completed his medical studies when he was sixteen. He spent his life traveling, teaching, writing, and treating sick people. His books were used in the universities of Middle Eastern and Europe countries for centuries. The book is suited for ages 8 to 12 by Fatima Sharafeddine and illustrated by Intelaq Mohammed Ali.
Since school curriculums in most parts of the world don’t include the historical figures as Ibn Sina, Sharafeddine helps the new generations to learn about him by telling the story from the perspective of first person which makes the book highly recommended.
This book can be used for the science, physic, biology, and history classes for students who are in high elementary and middle school. It is great to teach the American children that Muslim people have their positive effects on the world.
Al-DiÌ„n, FaÌ„tÌ£imah Sharaf, and IntÌ£ilaq MuhÌ£ammad Ê»Ali. The Amazing Travels of Ibn Battuta. Toronto, Ontario: Groundwood, 2014. Print.
Ibn Battuta is a great traveler from the 14th century who began his journey in 1325 when he was 21 years old. From his homeland Morocco, he traveled to the Middle Eastern, European, and Asian countries in a time there were neither cars nor planes. It took him 30 years before he returned home.
Ibn Battuta kept a diary of his journey, people, cultures, and places he came across. The author Fatima Sharafeddine wrote this book as a retelling of what is in his diary, and Intelaq Mohammed Ali illustrated it remarkably by giving us a picture of what it was like to be a traveler in the 14th century which makes the book highly recommended to be in the school library and on the home bookshelf.
This book should be used in the history and social studies’ classes to introduce the children to Arab history and culture. It is great also to show our students that Muslims are open minded to traveling and discovering the other countries and cultures.
Yoo, Paula, and Jamel Akib. Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank. New York: Lee & Low, 2014. Print.
Twenty-two cents is an inspiring story about Muhammad Yunus, the Bengali man who grew up witnessing the poverty around him and was determined to eliminate it. In 1976, Muhammad met a poor craftswoman in the village of Jobra who needed to borrow five takas (twenty-two cents) to buy materials. Banks wouldn’t lend her the money, so she was forced to borrow from a lender who charged her an unfair interest rate which didn’t leave her enough money to buy food.
Muhammad realized that all she needed is a few cents which left her financially unsecured. He founded Grameen Bank where people can borrow small amounts of money to start a business, and then pay back the bank without expensive interest charges. Mohammad changed the lives of millions of people; he especially helped the poor and women.
This 2015 SABA award non-fiction picture book is an excellent summary of the life of the noble prize winner Yunus. The combination of many themes in this book makes the quality of it very high. It is suited for first to 5th grade students.
This book could be used for social studies, language art, economics and mathematics’ classes. Parents and teachers can visit the website of The Active Learner Lee & Low Books for a classroom guide to get great ideas on how to teach the book. For Islamophobia topic, it is great to teach children how Muslims like Muhammad like to help others to make living.
Stamaty, Mark Alan. Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq. N.p.: Turtleback, 2010. Print.
Mark Alan Stamaty wrote this book about the heroic Alia Muhammad who is the chief librarian of the Central Library in Basra, Iraq. In 2003, during the war, Alia saved over 30,000 books by moving them to a safe place. By hiding the books, Alia saved the history and the culture of Iraq. The book is appropriate for upper elementary, middle, and high school students. What makes it grade is how Stamaty tells the story that is based on true events in the life of a real person through graphic cartoon sections. It also shows that super-hero doesn’t have to be super- powered.
This book is good to be used in the history and reading classes to teach about Iraq and the war in it, in addition to teaching the inspiring story of the heroic Muslim librarian Alia who saved the books of Basra’s library.
Demi. Muhammad. Place of Publication Not Identified: McElderry, 2004. Print.
Through a clear text and spectacular illustrations based upon those of traditional Islamic expression, the award-winning author Demi traces the remarkable life of the Prophet Muhammad for young readers. This book is highly recommended for all ages!
This biography non-fiction book is great to use for English language arts and social studies to teach about Islam and the prophet Muhammad. It also helps understanding the cultures of the Middle East area.
Ali-KaramaliSumbul. Growing up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam. New York: Ember, 2013. Print.
Through this book which is written for readers 12 years old and up, the author Sumbul Ali-Karamali answers many questions she receives from her curious friends and schoolmates while growing up in Southern California about daily life in Islam. She also offers an academic introduction to Islam, its development and its current demographics. By reading this book, readers will gain a better understanding of Muslim American life.
Ali-Karamali smoothly discusses the major aspects of Islam. The way she constructed the book makes the information more interesting and reachable to young readers which makes it highly rated.
Parents and teachers can use this book in social studies classes to teach children the aspects of Islam and the everyday rules of behavior of Muslims that are all highly mannered and have nothing to do with terrorism.
Ruelle, Karen Gray., and Deborah Durland. DeSaix. The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews during the Holocaust. New York: Holiday House, 2009. Print.
Karen Gray Ruelle, the author of Hidden on the Mountain, writes this picture book to uncover a little-known story from the history about Muslims of the Grand Mosque in Paris who saved Jewish lives when Nazis occupied Paris. Grand Mosque wasn’t just a place to worship, but also was a community center. The book is beautifully illustrated by Deborah Durland DeSaix. It is for children in upper elementary and middle school.
The very well given background history, the vocabulary, the subject matter, and the illustrations that are reminiscent of that period of time make me rate the book as a high-quality book.
It would be great to use the book for history and social studies’ classes as well as language arts’ classes. For the topic of Islamophobia, teachers should focus on the hadith/saying of Prophet Muhammad “Save one life, and it is as if you’ve save all humanity.”
Cunnane, Kelly, and Hoda Hadadi. Deep in the Sahara. New York: Schwartz & Wade, 2013. Print.
The Muslim Mauritanian girl Lalla wants to wear a malafa like her mother and big sister who wear it to cover their heads and clothes in public. Lalla understands that malafa is not just worn to honor tradition, but also for faith. Lalla’s mother agrees to get Laila malafa to cover her head and body, and then they pray together. This positive story about Islam is good for K to 3rd grade.
The poetic language of the book, the real positive message of Islam, and Cunnane’s note in the end of the book that she wrote what she learned about Islam and its practices while she was living in Mauritania; makes it a highly recommended to be taught in schools.
Teachers and parents can teach this book for social studies and language arts to teach students about Islam, and to explain that covering the women’s heads in Islam is not for abusing women, but it is worn for faith and by the choice of women.
Khan, Hena, and Mary O’Keefe Young. It’s Ramadan, Curious George. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. Print.
- H. Ray and Hena Khan wrote this book to explain the key concepts around Ramadan – fasting, charity and finally feasting, in child-friendly rhyme. The book is great for those who observe Ramadan, and others who would like to learn about Ramadan too!
The character curious George is a great choice to attract the youngsters in addition to the beautifully written rhyming text which makes it more interesting to Muslim and Non-Muslim kids.
This book can be used to teach the children about the month of Ramadan focusing on the behaviors, customs, and traditions of Muslim people during the month.
Five Books Lesson Plan:
This lesson is for 3rd to 6th grade students, and it needs one to two weeks to be done.
The topic of the lesson is What is Islam and Who are Muslims
Introduction: I will share a power point with the students including the learning objectives of the lesson, a brief introduction of Islam, the map of Muslim countries, and the names of the books students will read and the names of their writers.
The books are:
Four Feet, Two Sandals
The Hijab Boutique
Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank
The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews during the Holocaust
Discussion Prompt: I will ask the students some questions:
1- What do you know about Islam?
2- What do you know about Prophet Muhammad?
3- Do you have Muslim friends, or ever met Muslim people?
4- What do you think about charity?
5- What makes you a good human?
6- What does hero mean to you? Do you know personally any heroes?
7- How do you feel if one day someone saved your life?
First activity: I will divide the students in five groups, each group will read a book, and each student will write their own notes on what they found in the book about Islam and Muslim people and their cultures.
Second activity: When the students are done reading, each member of the group will share their notes with the rest of the group to make up one list of notes about the book they have read.
Third activity: students will have a circle time, and each group will retell the story of their book and share what they found about Islam and Muslim people in that book.
Fourth activity: After listening to all groups, students will collect all the information to create one common list of what they learned about Islam, Muslim people and their cultures. Volunteers will write the list on the board for all students to have it written on their notebooks.
Wrapping up activity: Students will write their own essays about Islam and Muslims to show their understanding of the subject.
Link: Reading these books will help you understand that Muslim people are like any other people who believe in God and have faith. It will also help you understand that the message of Islam is to live in peace, and love and help each other. It is great to look in the library for books which have stories about Islam and Muslims, read them and share what you read with your friends, classmates, and with me.
The books should be kept on the shelf in the classroom for students to borrow and read.