(In our October 20th issue, we ran Alexis Amory’s lead feature Muslim Re-Education. Below is a response written by Afeefa Syeed, followed by Ms. Amory’s rejoinder. – The Editors)
A Response to Alexis Amory’s “Muslim Re-Education” By Afeefa Syeed
In her Frontpage article “Muslim Re-Education” (October 20), Alexis Amory has sorely misrepresented what I do and the purpose of our presentations about Ramadan in local schools.
No where in the original article written for Religion News Service journalist Holly Lebowitz Rossi nor in my conversations with her, nor in the reality of any presentations that I have been involved in has there ever been any type of role playing. No one is asked to repeat any religious proclamation, and at no point is anyone asked to pray. This exaggeration and fabrication in Ms. Amory’s article only goes to further create a sense of alienation and distrust between neighbors. The presentations are celebratory about cultural traditions and are aimed to highlight the commonness between us all. No one is told that Islam is a better religion; no one is asked to accept Islam as the “true path.” In fact, proselytizing is not an objective of these presentations, and is not fundamental to our practice of the faith.
We go to classrooms in area schools as invitees of teachers who are sincere in their efforts to teach. Many times they are not knowledgeable themselves about Ramadan and appreciate having us there to talk about our traditions.
As a parent of three boys, I know the value in having my children understand the worldviews of others from the others’ standpoint, not just from mine. As an educator, I value knowledge in its most pristine form and know that children fear less that which they understand more. Sometimes, I wish as adults we would recognize that our fears of the unknown could be allayed by learning more and judging less.
I would more than appreciate and welcome a dialogue about this issue of sharing knowledge. Rather than resort to second or third hand sources as basis for analyses like Alexis Amory's article has done, please do go to the primary sources for greater understanding.
Proselytizing Crosses a Line By Alexis Amory
When writing my article about the spread of Islamic propaganda in American public schools, I concentrated my research on two towns on different sides of the country: Herndon, Virginia, and Byron, California. In referring to the intention of having American 7th graders role-playing, dressing in Muslim clothes and reciting Muslim prayers, I inadvertently ascribed these activities to Herndon rather than Byron.
In Herndon, it is elementary school children who are the target, and they get a visit from "multicultural trainer" Ms. Afeefa Syeed, who carries a globe to point out the areas of the world lived in by Muslims - which is almost every area of the world, given their propensity to emigrate from their native countries in massive numbers - and she is accompanied by Muslim children who carry prayer mats and dates and information about Ramadam to "share" with the Christian and Jewish 3rd, 4th and 5th graders as part of some religious obligation.
Ms. Syeed is upset that my article conflated the propagandizing of her religion in Herndon, VA, to the propaganda directed at older children in Byron, CA.
I regret that I accidentally quoted the wrong town as teaching religion to third graders, when actually that town is teaching religion to seventh graders, and it is Afeefa in Herndon who is taking her troupes of Muslim children and prayer mats round public schools to explain Islam to 3rd, 4th and 5th graders in Virginia.
Notwithstanding my inadvertently conflating Byron and Herndon in one single instance, and I retract my error in doing so, I stand by my emphasis of what is going on in American schools. There is a process of Muslim indoctrination of children in progress in American classrooms. And all the facts of my article are corroborated in Jihad Watch’s two articles Dhimmitude in Virginia: Teaching Ramadan in Public Schools and More on the California School Case.
A federal judge, in a case brought by parents, endorsed the right of the school in Byron, CA, to bring in Muslims to propagandize their religion by teaching Islamic prayers and habits to seventh graders, who were to be required to wear Muslim clothing for the lessons and go without candy for a day to get an idea of what fasting feels like.
And as I already reported, at the other side of the country, elementary school children have Afeefa Syeed, her globe, and children from a nearby Muslim school descend upon them to teach them about Ramadan. Question: did the parents sign a consent form for this intrusion into their children's spiritual lives?
Another important question: what steps are being made to guarantee that even if there is no proselytizing intent in these activities, that proselytizing doesn't happen in any case? For instance, the workbook used in Byron made students answer questions in a manner that forced them to make statements of Islamic faith, without any qualifiers such as "Muslims believe...." Does Ms. Syeed make sure that the content of her program avoids this type of presentation?
The disturbing problem remains that, since this kind of intrusion was ruled acceptable in the Byron case, it could easily be repeated in Herndon if anyone decided to do it. The key issue here is that in all of these developments, a line is being crossed into proselytization. The ball is in the court of individuals such as Ms. Syeed to prove that they are not crossing that line.