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The Need of Islamic Schools

Started by bamalli, September 10, 2006, 05:13:01 PM

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As I walked through the school hallway with my young son, a glob of saliva came arcing through the air and landed on the hem of my abaya. Pausing in shock, I heard raucous laughter from a group of African-American boys, and others who seemed to be their toadies. I marched him back through the door into the playground, during what seemed to be recess hour. Elementary school children strolled nonchalantly smoking cigarettes, even walking arm in arm as couples.

The seniors were more controlled, no doubt, having 'been there, seen that, and done it already.' I had come to admit my child in the local public school; I left thinking that I would enroll him here as much as I would throw him in a pit of vipers.

I am not alone in this traumatic experience. Muslim parents in Canada are increasingly finding the public school system unpalatable. The Muslim population in Canada has doubled in the past few years. It is currently estimated to be over 600,000, with more than half of us living in Ontario.

Toronto and its neighboring municipalities have close to 300,000 Muslims. In some parts of the city, Muslim children form as much as 90% of the total student population in schools. The problems are not limited to foul language, and disruptive and immoral behavior. There are a host of problems that plague the public school system.

Public schools have successfully removed almost all mention of God from their books and traditional practices. This is supposedly a secular institution, promoting tolerance and respect for all religions. However, the reality is that there is a lack of consistent policy on religious accommodation. Children grow up in an atmosphere that is cynical about God's existence. It is not just an immoral environment, but an amoral one. As Dostoevsky said, "Without God, everything is possible," implying that not fearing God opens the door to all kinds of sins.

The overall school environment conveys a lot of non-Islamic ideas associated with Canadian cultural traditions such as Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's day, Thanksgiving etc. This almost covers the whole school year and the entire education program, which is centered on the theme of festivity at the time.

There is also a considerable lack of understanding of the increasing diversity of cultures and religions of the many students that attend public schools. In parts of Toronto, more than 50-90% of the student population is non-white and non-Christian. Yet there is still a considerable degree of intolerance, prejudice, and racism exhibited by school staff and students. The system has not been overhauled in the last 3 decades.

The current school curriculum at all levels uses graphic illustrations for teaching human biology and sex education. Teachers forward that the average age for children to start experimenting with sex has shrunk to the tender age of ten years. Children have to cope with complex issues such as date-violence and pregnancy while still in school.
To make matters worse, there are sexual orientation classes that teach alternative lifestyles, including gay and lesbian practices. All of this is in direct conflict with Islamic beliefs.

Within the schools, there exists a strong drug culture, and drug use. "We definitely do not tolerate smoking and indecent behavior within the school premises, but we cannot control what children do outside of school and after school hours," is the response of the teachers. There also exists a strong music culture, and the strongest influences on a child are singers and pop musicians.

School violence is not an unheard of phenomenon. Highly publicized incidents like the Columbine High School shootings have driven knee-jerk responses to the complex problem of school violence. The most common reaction is increased security of schools. Over the past few years, many schools have become modern-day fortresses equipped with surveillance cameras, security guards or police officers, metal detectors, and perimeter doors which are locked during school hours.

Today, children continue to experience complex issues such as bullying, dating, violence, prejudice, pregnancy and drug use. As a result of these issues, coupled with potential victimization in the school setting, the capacity and ability to learn has been adversely affected.

The teachers' ability to teach in this environment has been adversely affected as well. This system places strong emphasis on the rights of the students without making effort to teach them responsibilities and proper etiquette. Students are aware that if they disrupt the class, the teacher's authority for punishment is severely limited. Students show disrespect for discipline and values, as the staff is not sufficiently empowered to enforce rules and regulations.

To top it off, many graduates of public schools are functionally illiterate. Research indicates that most students graduate with less knowledge and capability than similar students in other industrialized countries.

Meanwhile, responsible parents are choking with frustration, having to deal with their disciplined children who suddenly become rebellious, arrogant, and disrespectful due to peer pressure. The values we teach our children at home are neutralized in less than an hour.

The situation worsens when both parents have full-time jobs. They totally abdicate their parental responsibilities and as a result, the school acts as a baby-sitter. They have no time for their children and expect the school to teach them more than academic subjects. Studies have shown that the number one determinant of student success is the environment in the home.

The only advantage that public schools have is that they are free. If you do not find fault in the above-mentioned problems, then your children can have basic education till grade 12 for free. If parents reject the public school system, the only alternative is to have Islam-based private schools, which ensure the teaching of an academically and morally acceptable curriculum.

The importance of a proper environment for bringing up children cannot be overemphasized. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "the human being is born in a state of pure nature as a Muslim; it is his parents who turn him into a Jew, Christian or otherwise."

This only means that the environment has the greatest impact on the way a child is brought up. Parents, who represent the environment at home, so greatly impact a child, that they can change a child's pure nature by their influence.

It is a fact that young children are very much influenced by their teachers and they also like to imitate other children. In the Canadian public school system, teachers generally treat children fairly and help them learn. Despite that, if the teacher implements good values, it still may create a problem for the child because the teacher's personal conduct may not agree with Islamic values. A very obvious example is the basic dress code in the classroom.

To be aware of these dangers is a positive parenting attitude. It is actually the parent's responsibility to filter the negative effects of the environment from shaping the child's personality, during those tender years.