Islam & Islamophobia

By Marieke van Woerkom

Objectives

Students will:

  • share what makes them proud about their cultural heritage and/or community affiliation
  • watch an online video about American Muslims
  • discuss their knowledge and understanding of Islam and Muslims
  • share their feelings about being treated unfairly

Social and Emotional Skills

Students will:

  • gain self-confidence by recognizing what is good about one's cultural background and/or community affiliation
  • increase their awareness of other cultures/religions
  • debunk prejudices and stereotypes
  • gain empathy for and step into the shoes of Muslim Americans
  • increase their awareness of feelings people have about issues of injustice


Materials


Gathering (7 minutes)

Ask students in pairs to share something about their cultural background and/or community affiliation that makes them proud.

Ask a few volunteers to share what makes them proud in the large group.

Recognize that there are many things that can make us proud, and should make us proud, of our cultural background or community. It feels good to recognize these positive things. Unfortunately we don't seem to do this enough--especially when it comes to appreciating other people's culture and community. Think about that as we start today's lesson.


Check Agenda (3 minutes)


Explain that in today's lesson your students will be exploring their understanding of Islam through a video clip, some small and large group discussions.


Microlabs - Unfair Treatment (10 min)


In small groups of three or four ask students to discuss a time when they were treated unfairly. It might be a time when a sibling, friend or classmate did something that they were wrongly blamed for. Or perhaps a time when they were treated poorly because of the way they looked, the way they sounded or the religion they practiced.

  • Explain what happened.
  • What did that feel like?

Ask a few volunteers to share their feelings with the large group. Jot down or summarize the feelings associated with the events the students describe.

How are these feelings different from how it felt when we talked about things that make us proud of our background or community?


A Land Called Paradise (25 min)

In December 2007, over 2,000 American Muslims were asked what they would wish to say to the rest of the world. Their responses were recorded in a video called A Land Called Paradise.

Let students know that you'll be showing them this clip twice. The first time, ask students to just watch it. The second time ask them to pay close attention to:

  • ideas or statements that are new to them
  • things they didn't know about
  • information or statement that might contradict their existing knowledge or understanding of Islam

Having watched the clip twice, ask students their thoughts about the clip.

  • What stood out for them? Why?
  • Was there anything that surprised them? Why?
  • Was there anything that confused them? Why?
  • What did they learn about American Muslims from the clip?
  • How was this different from what they knew about Islam (the religion) and Muslims (people who practice the religion) before?
  • Where do students think most Americans get their information about Islam and Muslims?

Explain to your students that around 20% of the world's population is Muslim, but only about 2% of the American population is Muslim. Some American Muslims originally came from other countries. Others were born in the U.S. Some have been Muslim since birth, while others have become Muslim (converted to Islam) later on in life.

Like other minority religions and cultures in the US, Islam is often misunderstood. Since September 11, 2001, and the start of the global "war on terror," Islam has often been associated with negative things, frequently because of misunderstanding or misinformation.

Ask whether your students know of other immigrant groups that have been associated with negative things in US history and have been treated poorly as a result?

People who have negative associations with Islam are often afraid of Islam and Muslims. It is for this reason that one of the men in the clip shows a sign that asks: "Would you be scared if I moved to your city?" What do you think about this sign? How do you think the man feels?

A woman holds up a sign that reads: "terrorists hijacked my religion." What do you think she's referring to? What do you think about this sign? How do you think she feels?

Finally a boy shows a sign: "I'm human" and then: "I'm sorry." What do you think about these signs? What do you think he's sorry about? How do you think he feels?

Closing (5 min)

The clip you watched, A World Called Paradise, ends with the words "We the people … means all of us." Ask a few volunteers to explain what that statement refers to. How does the statement relate to what we discussed in class today?

This lesson was written by Marieke van Woerkom for TeachableMoment.Org, a project of Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility. We welcome your comments. Please email us at info@morningsidecenter.org.

Marieke van Woerkom is an educator and trainer who works with Morningside Center. She has helped young people and adults around the world learn skills to resolve conflict and foster cross-cultural understanding.


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