Kathy Jamil, the principal of an Islamic school in Buffalo, N.Y., has a suggestion for anyone who balks at the inclusion of Muslim schools in school choice programs.
“This is something that I wish I could just get on a soapbox and just shout at the top of my lungs,” Jamil told redefinED in the podcast attached below. Before passing judgment on Muslim schools, she said, “We hope that those who have fears … would take the opportunity to get to know them.”
Anti-Muslim bigotry is a small but steady undercurrent in school choice debates. In the past year alone, it surfaced in Alabama, Tennessee, Kansas and a handful of other states. In the most-publicized example, a state lawmaker in Louisiana said she regretted supporting that state’s new voucher program because it could wind up promoting Islam.
Jamil is chair of the Islamic Schools League of America, an associate of the American Center for School Choice (which co-hosts this blog) and a member of the new national Commission on Faith-based Schools. Given the atmosphere, she believes school choice in America is particularly important for Muslim families.
“You find that Muslim children oftentimes – and their families for that matter – feel intimidated or afraid to openly practice their faith. So we find that some students in the public school setting will not tell their classmates or their friends, or be openly Muslim if you will,” she said. “This is challenging for any child, because now you have to play these two roles. You’ve got this duality going on, where at home or in your faith tradition, community center – wherever it is that you feel safe in terms of practicing your faith – you can act Muslim. But in the public school sector, you’ve got to avoid being Muslim at any level. This duality is very difficult for children. It’s very unhealthy.”
“We need to help children reconcile how they can practice their faith and how they can further solidify their commitment as citizens of America,” Jamil continued. School choice helps them “bridge those two worlds.”