Islamic schools are in the news this week. Time profiles an Islamic pre-K-12 school in suburban Chicago that has a mainstream curriculum and typical after-school activities, but also maintains traditional Islamic practices like dress codes, separation of the sexes, and regular prayer and Koran studies. The New York Times reports that Jordan, facing extremism at home and pressure abroad, is attempting to change its textbooks by downplaying the violence often associated with jihad. While Jordanian textbooks are, by Middle Eastern standards, light on religious extremism, they still emphasize themes like the Western plot against Muslims and deceitful Jews attacking Islam. Eliminating these entrenched radical beliefs will take a delicate balance of religiosity and modernity. Finally, two days after the Times discussed the widespread violent fundamentalism associated with Islamic schools, it published an op-ed asserting that the United States has nothing to fear from madrassas (religious Muslim schools, which are often accused of fostering violent Islamic fundamentalism, see here) because such schools "do not teach the technical or linguistic skills necessary to be an effective terrorist." The authors, Peter Bergen and Swati Pandey, attempt to prove this by noting that only nine of 75 terrorists behind recent terror attacks were educated at madrassas. Yikes. Even if these schools aren't teaching the "technical" skills of terrorism, they often imbue young Muslims with a violent interpretation of Islam that fosters and foments these terrorist acts.
"The model school, Islamic style," by Marguerite Michaels, Time, June 11, 2005
"Jordan is preparing to tone down the Islamic bombast in textbooks," by Hassan M. Fattah, New York Times, June 12, 2005
"The madrassa myth," by Peter Bergen and Swati Pandey, New York Times, June 14, 2005