Research Sample, Topic: American Islamic Schools


This literature review is conducted to acquaint readers with the actual nature of Muslim students’ educational choices and examine their various types using research literature pertinent to religious and elementary educational institutions in America. Despite many parents having placed their children in non-Islamic schools, a significant number of parents enroll their children in weekend and after-school programs to supplement their Islamic education. Gradually, Muslim Americans began to realize they were not fully accepted by the dominant American culture and hence felt rejected and isolated. This dismissal in turn stirred a strong desire to develop their identity. 

Keywords: American Islamic Schools, American Culture, Educational Choices in America, American Education and Muslims.


Chapter I


            Islam can be recognized to be one of the growing religions wherein there are several followers living in different parts of the world, including in the United States (Lipka, Hackett, 2015). In this regard, the number of Muslims seeking educational accessibility in the United States has reached greater heights due to the belief that teaching Islamic culture, religion, and values are important in shaping their lives. Ewing (2008, p. 158) asserted that Muslims in the United States are commonly faced with “pluralism and diversity” in establishing and shaping their identities. This therefore suggests that the role of American Islamic Schools are deemed important in teaching students about the history of Islam and other related contexts.

Consequently, it is believed that without Islamic Schools in the United States, Muslims, particularly children, will learn to embrace the American culture and reject Islamic beliefs and practices (Timani, 2006). As a result, Islamic organizations and individuals worked on seeking accommodations in schools, communities, and work places (Cavendish, 2010). However, the same author contended that the majority of private and public schools in the United States were having difficulties in coping with the traditions and practices of Muslims such as Islamic noon-time prayers and language barriers. From this standpoint, it can be argued that American Islamic Schools play a central role in the provision of efficient and fit learning environments for Muslim immigrants and international Muslim students wherein cultural and language gaps can be addressed.

This literature review will be considering the independent variables which are beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of Islamic students. In addition, dependent variables will be considered including attending American schools by Muslim students. Thus, it is the main goal of this study to explore the role of American Islamic Schools in influencing and affecting the behaviors, attitudes and beliefs of Muslim students who attended American schools and comparing them with the Muslim students who did not attend American schools. In particular, this study aims to answer the following research questions:

  1. After attending an American Elementary school, what effects do elementary experiences have on their Islamic beliefs regarding dress?
  2. After attending an American Elementary school, why are there more American Islamic female students removing their face covering as compared to female student who did not attend an American elementary school?
  3. After attending American school, at what age between elementary and high school can Islamic students be easily affected and drifted by American civic culture in terms of listening to western music? Why?
  4. After attending American Elementary school, are Islamic students more likely to attend social events in high-school than Islamic students who did not attend an American elementary school?

Definition of Terms

Islam – Islam refers to the religion or faith of the Muslims and the term Islam means complete surrender to God’s (Allah) will.

Efficiency – The level of performance that influences the use of minimized resources in producing useful outcomes. Being efficient means using fewer amounts of wasted resources.

Islamic Education – Learning about Islamic religion, practices and values.

In the next chapter, a review of existing literatures about American Islamic Schools will be discussed in order to fill research gaps and answer the identified research questions

Chapter II

Literature Review

American Islamic Schools

The American Islamic schools have become institutions that play a very crucial role in ensuring that the Muslim communities including residents and immigrants attain some level of religious values. Hussain (2004) describes Islamic education as a concept of tarbyiah which is a word derived from raba whose meaning is to nurture. From the diversity traits of the American Muslim communities, there are indeed various competing visions of what entails the tarbyiah of Muslim children. Of major concern is the socialization as well as the establishment of the Islamic identity that involves the  from a negativity in religious matters. The Muslim leaders are bestowed with the responsibility of characteristically defining the Islamic practices and getting them integrated within the for American culture. A proper comprehension of how Muslim leaders incorporate Islam into pedagogical institutions has remained a crucial matter for this study. In a bid to understand the goals of community members in their focus to achieve through the establishment of religious institutions, it is equally of importance to understand their origin and values. According to the Pew Research Center (2007) in their study of the “Muslim Americans: middle class and mainstream” collecting data of Muslims will help publicize the demographics of the Muslim community in their perceptions in America.

Moreover, the analysis of such data will help in giving an explanation for which Muslims navigate their identity in rather secular society. According to the research by Pew Research Center, there is an estimated 2.3 million Muslim Americans in which 65% comprise of the first generation, 7% (Al-Attas, 1999) are of the second generation, and an overwhelming 28% have lived in the US for more than three generations. The literature for man Islamic matters  describe the Islamic schools as value based education in adherence to a process that is referred to as ‘Islamization’ which is a means of incorporating Islamic beliefs, concepts, and values in the education sector.

Islamic Dress Code and the Hijab

The Quran teachings particularly encourage the Muslim community to adopt humility in their day to day lives keeping in mind God, their faith, and being a brother’s keeper. As indicated by Qur’an: “O Prophet! Tell thy wives and girls, and the trusting ladies that they ought to cast their outer garments over their persons when abroad.”(Quran, 33: 59). This piece is commonly referred in a bid to depict ladies’ clothing regulation in Islam. The distinctions in veiling practices have an extremely complex history, which traces the origin of Islam by hundreds of years. Al-Attas (1999) contends that veiling practices as discussed in the Qur’an particularly descended from the wives of the Prophet Muhammad in light of the fact that men along the streets were used to women harassment. Other religious researchers though express an objection to Al-Attar’s argument pointing out that they are overclouded with women’s activist perspective, and neglects giving the entire importance of the Qur’an content, whereby the verse really incorporates wives of the Prophet and the women of believers. This creates disputable debates over the veiling practices and the way of dressing for women.

Wearing similar style of dress demonstrates certain social qualities with others also attired while minor subtle elements may recognize a person from others in their social gathering. This thought equally applies to women who wear certain types of the Hijab. For instance, the women of Egypt wear an alternate kind of Hijab that is different in style and color when contrasted with ladies in Saudi Arabia who commonly use black abaya or niqab which is a black veil covering the face. Such varieties in dressing in specific styles likewise demonstrate that different social practices among Muslims exist. Lately, the multicultural nations like America and Canada, have raised massive contentions due to the debate on permitting youthful Muslim young students to wear the Hijab inside of government schools. The American Rights and Freedoms guarantee freedom for women. American women consider themselves to be dynamic, freed, and educated though Muslim ladies are generally seen by Western culture as originating from underdeveloped nations and retrogressive particularly when wearing the Hijab.

In this manner, the Hijab is seen by standard American culture, as an impression of the dominance of Muslim men over Muslim women. A research study in American urban areas demonstrated that Muslim women who put on the Hijab are exposed to discrimination in education, organizations, and the workplace. Consequently, discrimination on religion matters is clear in France, and Quebec where young women are under the threat of expulsion due to wearing the Hijab. Zine (2007) points out that the present circumstances of Islamophobia may assume a part in the choices taken by women regarding wearing the Hijab. As a result, some parents get concerned about the perception of their girls the elementary schools when they adopt the Islamic clothing as well as the Hijab.

Building a strong Islamic foundation may provide a certain freedom to do what one is expected to do in terms of behavior according to religious laws. For example, according to the religious laws of the Catholic Church, abortion is not allowed, is not an option, and is considered a sin against God and humanity. Placed in a situation where a woman or girl is faced with the dilemma of taking the life of her unborn child or not, her conscience is her guide. If her conscience has been formed on strong Catholic principles, she knows intuitively that she should not abort her fetus. These principles are similar in the Islamic religion as well in Islam.

The Importance of Islamic Education

The Qur’an, emphasizes in procuring an education, seeking knowledge, and in sought for guidance and wisdom. The Islamic form of education, as clarified by Ahmad (2002), is a procedure through which individuals transmit their cultures and legacy with which they bring up children to duly comprehend their obligations in life with the goal that they can be great people in the society. He portrays Islamic education as a holistic approach whereby the training is not restricted to the limits of the school, but rather includes all aspects of the society, beginning at home and proceeds in schools, mosques, and with companions. As a result, moral behaviors and faith are the most vital components of an Islamic educational training, making it unique in relation to the Western form of education (Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, 1996). The latter Western education pupils in government schools are taught moral values, but their guidelines are free of religious association.

The Islamic education in this regard uses the Qur’an, which gives good, moral and religious standards as guided by the actions of the Prophet Muhammad (Sunnah). These schools, in this way, are bestowed with the duty to create a conducive environment that advocates for moral sensibility through acquired etiquette. The American elementary education inclination to see Islamic radicalism/fundamentalism as having a part in Islamic education has as of late put Islamic schools in a troublesome position. Despite being held between Shia’s and Sunni perspectives, the Islamic schools have established unity in keenly observing the religion’s obligations (Al-Attas, 1999) of faith including: the shahada, the mandatory prayer (salah), almsgiving (zakah), the fasting (sawm) and the journey to Mecca (hajj).

As pointed out by the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs (1996)notwithstanding the variety of ways in which Islamic schools run that includes differing degrees of strictness, and ethnic connection, or orthodoxy numerous similitudes are the uniting factors. Other researchers argue that since Islamic schools take just few children, the actual reason for Islamic education in America is not satisfied. They further recommend that there ought to be different ways to educate Muslim youngsters who do not go to Islamic schools. Indeed Islamic schools usually create an island Islamic environment that totally cuts off kids from the neighboring societies (Ahamed, 1991). Regardless of the disagreements and complexities in definition, in America, regarding Islamic teachings, a majority of Muslims the fundamental objective behind an Islamic education is to open their kids to cultural activities that go hand in hand with their own encounters. Furthermore, Islamic schools make a platform where learners are not distanced and are allowed to practice their religious obligations without resisting the predominant society’s understanding of school.

School environment

Establishing one’s identity as a Muslim, parents send their children to Islamic school to build a strong Islamic foundation. According to modernization theory, religious and cultural identities tend to dissipate in an environment of liberalism and secularism. It is a requirement by the state laws that the elementary schools ought to educate the students within a secular environment and in this way help in protecting them from getting indoctrinated in any religion. This way, the schools can give a guarantee for rights of the students in verbally expressing their faiths, engage in daily prayers and get involved in religious events before and after school.  It is a fact that extensive research on Islamic education in America’s educational sector is lacking. Earlier studies by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) gauged the status and the plight of Islamic students in America in a bid to promote dialogue between Islamic communities and their schools. They arrived at three main recommendations:  the school magement ought to initiate inter-school dialogue, secondly, develop sustainable financial plans, finally to formally define the curriculum guidelines.

According to Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs (1996) culture is the software of the mind. It programs individuals to act and think, as well as live under certain principles and customs. Muslims, who strongly believe in the ways of Islam, are adamant in passing on their beliefs and culture to their children. While emotional ties to ethnic and cultural identities are generally respected, many affirm that their dual orientation is to be both Muslim and American, with the understanding that these identities are mutually supportive rather than exclusive.

A major discovery of the study is that parents and guardians hold with high regard the school environments that back, instead of repudiating or even disregarding the religious requirements of Muslim youngsters. The parents in the research by Ahamed (1991) irrespective of educational system they choose, they show more value for the schools which their kids can unreservedly perform religious obligations, for example, the five prayers, which constitute an essential part of the five pillars of Islam. The guardians whose children are in the Islamic schools freely offer religious support the school’s curriculum. Those guardians that move their children from the elementary systems to Islamic system express a lot of happiness and satisfaction for the value they get from Islamic schools. The research likewise uncovers that Muslim folks consider the good relation between the schooling environment and the home environment as critical (Leonard, 2003).

Accordingly, the Islamic environment is vital to the childhood times for the cultural values observation and additionally express that Islamic schools advance the same values and fortify the same philosophies that are vital for their kids, to have the capacity to put into practice their Islamic cultures. These findings are in accordance with Zine’s (2007) research study which focuses on the need for Islamic schooling system for Muslim students to perform their religious obligations unreservedly. This implies that the staunch Muslims find performing prayers an essential component of their well-being regardless of being at school or at work. Subsequently, the absence of an accommodation for performing religious obligations by elementary schools constraints parents to send their children to Islamic schools.

The larger part of parents have trust that Islamic schools assume a critical part in making a conducive environment that ingrains Islamic beliefs in their children. For instance one Muslim parent puts it that, “our first obligation as Muslim parents is to ensure that we instill our values and our personalities in our children”. This discovery affirms the survey that stipulates the significance of religion as a component of children’s school lives. Choosing the elementary system over Islamic educational system communicates the idea that while taking into consideration the religious practices in elementary schools was critical for their children especially at a tender age; this endeavor posed a major challenge for their personality. Ahamed (1991) affirms that numerous parents are in constant fear that whenever the environment is does not fully support their social or religious beliefs; children are bound to lose their identity. Indeed, within the elementary schools some teachers and staff are not very much sufficiently competent to teach to the class about Islam and other religious convictions and hence children are mocked by their schoolmates on account of their religious affiliations.

Alternately, some parents in this research give credit to elementary schools as being exceptionally accommodating to the children and their religious needs. These parents therefore compliment the school organization for ensuring provision, for example, a different room during meal times for the students during Ramadan (Hasan, 2007). The two contrary reactions over the issue of regarding Muslim students’ students in the elementary educational system must be accorded a comprehensive examination. The inquiries to be asked are for what good reason do two distinct schools in the same elementary educational framework react or treat Muslim students. Does every school make its own policy arrangement regarding religious practices of the minority in in the society? Finding answers to these inquiries demands that we take a consideration at how multicultural education is actualized in elementary schools, and analyze the message that is passed on to students as pertains to understanding the contrasts between different ethnic societies and their religious practices. Also it is paramount to have an understanding of the roles of school administration, particularly the role of management in observing respect for minority groups. (Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, 1996)

Educational programs and its pedagogy

The Muslim parents also raised concerns on matters of curriculum modules within the elementary educational system, for example, matters of health and arts are designed in a way that meddles with their religious and social beliefs. This includes cases in non-literal figurative art and music which negatively impacts on the girls by having them remove the face covering. In the elementary schools they become introduced into another different form of culture portraying the covering of the face as a rather retrogressive culture. As noted by Hasan (2007) some educational practices in subjects like music and dance are against the teachings of Islam on the grounds that such exercises more often than not require close physical contact among males and females. On matters of sex education in the general wellbeing educational programs, the majority of Muslim parents are challenged with the utilization of unequivocal materials to show youthful youngsters about sex (Hirschfeld, 1992).

In fact some parents find the very convincing component to move their children from elementary educational system, to an Islamic educational system. In the meantime students in the elementary educational system recognize that they need their kids to be educated about matters of puberty. Moreover as pointed out b Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs (1996) the parents additionally focused on that content substance ought to be age suitable, and, ought to be given without going into private subtle elements that incorporate sexual relations hence the need for isolating young boys form girls.

Islamic students drifted by American civic culture into listening to western music

When Islamic students are joining high school they are more susceptible to American Civic culture when it comes to listening to western music. While at elementary school, many of the Islamic students are not even capable of understanding western music clearly. On the onset of adolescent, the students are trying out different things in their lives due to the hormonal pressure from their bodies. It is at the age of fourteen and fifteen that most of them begin understanding and getting influenced by Western music and western culture.

This age is a rebellious age, and many students tend to question why their parents are putting a lot of pressure on them to follow Islamic rules in their daily lives. They feel that they need a sense of freedom to choose what they want. Music comes first as many can now own their own mobile phones where they can download and listen to western music. They want to fit in the western culture and not be seen as odd. This mounts pressure on them to conform to many western ways of life and listening to western music comes at number one.(Leonard, 2003) Teenage is the age at which children think that they have great control over their lives to the extent of not needing supervision from an older person. When teenagers are subjected to controls, they tend to have a kind of rebellious nature. They feel that they should be left alone to choose whatever they want in their lives. At this age, it is where most students adopt bad behavior like engaging in drugs and fornication.

Community leaders seek not to reject the western culture but rather to seek the Muslim life which is the best. The principle that guides the community to determine the truth of something is, ‘it is Islamic.’ Practices of western culture do not contradict the sharia law. Hence, the Islamic consider it as well. In regard to the jurisprudence of Islam, the society takes a relaxed approach in which they find the best to fiqh matters (Hasan, 2007). This Islamic treatment as a philosophy is used as a guideline for a contemplative understanding of the existence of one with an emphasis which is low on the practices of ritual or the law of Islam. The school took an approach to prevent social issues that the learners may be faced with, for example, peer pressure, drug abuse, diseases that are sexually transmitted and abstaining. Middle and high schools are canceled each and every year, where students are grouped in different categories by gender and school, where middle schools are separated from high school. Old boys and girls are invited to give a talk on how keeping not really is dangerous. The purpose of Muslim is twofold. The first objective believed was to prevent a student from a secular, western culture purely. This includes protecting them from external influences that are harmful such as use of drugs, being discriminated in public schools and lack of identity as a Muslim (Leonard, 2003).

The second objective was for Islamic school leaders to give encouragement to governing the way of life by the doctrine of Islam. There would be success in a school if the students are felt drawn to pray a day five times by the time they graduate and fast in the month of Ramadan and give charity. A student who is an undergraduate, little effort is required to generate these two operational goals on the basis of a moderate experience with the community of Muslims. Muslims have been posited as another inimical western value and culture. In many strategic events of 9/11, redrawing of symbolic boundaries has been there in the United States nation. Hadassah al sawt is a term that is used by Islam to separate their music from the western music which is seen contrasting in very important and critical ways. It is the Islamic goal to study Quran influence and Islamic religious on sound art role in the Islamic world. The first step towards the end of this will be to observe various ethical considerations that Muslims have formed considering Hadassah al sawt. The second step is observing on how religious beliefs are manifested in the art of sound itself. They should compare western music where they are able. It is believed that many similarities (Hasan, 2007) exist between Hadassah al sawt and other examples of western art music, especially, and forms of jazz. Comparison such as this are formed in the hope of creating the Islamic world sound art more accessible and easily understood not only to the Muslims but also to readers who are more familiar with musical world development in the United States and Europe.

Music is one of the major influences on high school teenagers. They want to be identified with famous music celebrities. Due to this, most Islamic students who have been through the American Elementary school and are now attending high school usually are fully conformed to American culture. They follow the American trends in music and fashion just like other non-Muslim students. (Leonard, 2003) Only the Islamic students who attend Islamic schools escape the pressure of conforming to the Western culture as most of them are strictly exposed to Muslim education only. The outside world is restricted to them and they therefore cannot be easily influenced by non-Muslim students. The American civic culture is famous across the globe and everyone wants to be associated with it. Many teenagers idolize music celebrities from the US and the Islamic students in high schools are no exempted. Since they can be able to own a smartphone at the high school level, they can access the internet and the social media where they are influenced more to conform to the American civic culture.

Islamic students likely to attend social events in high school than Islamic students who did not attend an American elementary school

It is true that Islamic students who attend the American Elementary school have a high tendency to attend the social events in high school compared to the Islamic students who never attended the American Elementary schools. The American Elementary schools (Hirschfeld, 1992) have students from all walks of life that interact together. Students in schools tend to do the things that will make them famous and recognizable among other students. If the lifestyle of one student is viewed as more fashionable and appropriate, many students follow suit and adopt the lifestyle. The students from the diverse backgrounds highly influence each other especially at a young age, and so it is very easier for a student to be swayed away into believing something that he/she never believed before.

When children are at a tender age, it is very easy for them to learn and grasp new things like for example, a foreign language. When Islamic students attend American Elementary schools, it is like they are typical Americans since they learn about every aspect of the American life at a very tender age. Here, they are able to make childhood friends with non-Muslims and the friendship bonds keeps on getting stronger and stronger. When they are young, their Islamic belief is not as strong as the other Islamic children who never attended American Elementary schools. The degree at which they can conform to the Western culture is higher compared to their counterpart students who never attended American Elementary schools. The Muslim students who attend American Elementary schools have the most influence to attend social events because of peer pressure from other students. While attending the American Elementary schools, they make new friends who are non-Muslims, and it is either they influence them and turn them to believing the Islamic religion or they themselves get influenced into converting to other new religions. But since the majority of the students in the American Elementary schools are non-Muslims, their influence on the minority Muslim students is more intense and will thus influence them to adopt their ways of life that are majorly characterized by attending social events like house parties, camping or watching American football games.

On the other hand, the Islamic students who attend Islamic schools other than the American Elementary schools do not have the chance to interact with non-Muslim students at a tender age. They interact with themselves without any outside influence from other students. This way, they are not likely to attend social events. The teachers who teach the students in Islamic schools try their best to discourage the Islamic students from practicing activities that are inappropriate for them like partying and clubbing. They are told that these kinds of behavior can erode their religious beliefs. (Hirschfeld, 1992) Most students who engage in activities like drug abuse are not primarily interested in drugs at first. Constant interaction with other students who engage in such activities gradually attracts them to the same behavior and finally they get themselves hooked on them. Peer pressure is the major force driving students into becoming what they aren’t in schools. This is no different when it comes to the Islamic students attending American Elementary schools. Since most American students have the culture of attending social events, they will automatically influence a new student into attending the social events in order for them to ‘fit in’. (Ahamed, 1991) This is why many Muslims, who are American citizens have found a way to live like the Americans and still manage to maintain their Muslim religion.

Muslim parents understand that it is very easy for their children to get swayed by the American culture and completely forget about the Islamic culture. This is an area of great concern to the parents. With the aim of preserving their religion through generations, most of the parents go to the extent of taking their children to schools in their mother nation for them to be taught more about the Muslim religion. Taking their children overseas to study with other Muslim students is a way of ensuring that their character and behavior is not corrupted by other religions and cultures across the world (Hirschfeld, 1992). The parents that cannot stand getting separated from their children have come up with Islamic schools to teach their children all their beliefs and shield them from external influence.

American schools encourage interaction between all students in order to promote peace and liberty among all the citizens. Since the American population is characterized by people from diverse backgrounds with different religions and ideologies, the only way to unite as one is through interactions such as social events like competitions that promote unity. Because of this, all the students are obliged to participate in such events so as to feel that they belong to something big. So, the Islamic students who attend the American Elementary schools are more likely to attend social events than those who are in Islamic schools. America is a democratic nation that promotes liberty among all its citizens regardless of their religion or ideologies. According to Ahamed (1991) Muslims who have immigrated to America have to live like Americans while still remaining to be Muslims. Through living like Americans, they let their children attend the same schools as other American children. This is where their children are influenced to adopting new ways of life so as to blend in. In conclusion, it is very true that Muslim students who attend American Elementary schools are more likely to attend social events in high school than Islamic students who did not attend American elementary schools.


The purpose of this literature review is to understand the essence of Islamic schools in the United States. Islamic schools provide a conducive environment for Muslim students which give support for the growth of their identity and beliefs. Furthermore, the interviews conducted with parents and graduates of Islamic schools indicates that there is a desire to be deep rooted in their faith cultures as well as get opportunities to dialogue with persons of other faith traditions. The ongoing dialogue prepares students to be both expressive and receptive of other beliefs in non-Islamic schools and work places. It is with the hope that there should be reduced gap at which the Muslims students and the non-Muslims are subjected to in the educational matters but at the same time allowing each of them to practice their culture. The Muslim students attending American Elementary schools have the most influence to attend social events because of peer pressure from other students. In these American Elementary schools, they make new friends who are non-Muslims, and they are hence left with two options, that is, to influence them and turn them to believing the Islamic religion or they themselves get influenced into converting to other new religions. However, there are also uncovered areas of development that must be accorded more emphasis and attention by school management as well as the administration and more so in formulating inclusive and dynamic mission statements. Also, by so doing they will develop more opportunities for students to practice citizenship in their communities, and improve teaching and learning to prepare the best graduates.


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