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Dear Principal and teachers,

Every March 17th, my children and I dread school. I don’t know what the basis of the custom is but every year, I have my children complain that they were pinched and humiliated because they were not wearing green to school.  This sort of behavior would never be tolerated on a day to day basis but it seems like on this particular day- it is a free for all. I am addressing this issue ahead of time, in hopes that last year will not be repeated.

I  bring this up with you as last year was particularly hard. All three of them complained of people pinching them, at times very painfully. The simple answer would be to send my children to school wearing green but why should I have to? Is it a school sanctioned affair? I know the school will ask on certain days to send them in wearing a particular color because they are learning about that color but this particular custom is not educational in any way.

Why is this behavior tolerated in school? Please make it a point to ensure that my children are safe.  If a student is hurt, annoyed, or embarrassed because of their belief and choice in NOT participating in this “custom” it is the school’s duty to ensure that the child’s sense of safety and security is PROTECTED, by not permitting such behavior to continue both in the classroom and in the playground.  As in every multi-cultural environment, we must have education and awareness in the classroom, that not everyone follows the traditions/ customs being perpetuated and that teachers, yard duties and other students need to respect that.

Sincerely ,

This is the letter that I send to my children’s principal. I am sure Patrick was a gracious Christian soul, who would not want his memory to be associated with this obnoxious custom.

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This year Ramadan coincides with the first day of school for many families. Realizing that many of our Muslim brothers and sisters do choose the public school system for their kids’ education, this is a resource to help make the best out of Ramadan in public school. This blessed month is such a vital part of being Muslim that enjoying it and sharing it with others, instead of hiding it, goes a long way in maintaining Muslim children’s Islamic identity while attending public school. After the will of Allah, it begins with parental involvement in the lives of their children. You owe it to them.

Elementary School

Send in a letter or email to the school principal and the classroom teacher introducing your family and informing them about Ramadan. This sample letter to your child’s principal includes an offer to come into class and do a presentation on Ramadan.  You can correlate it to the phases of the moon in science especially for first and third graders as it is a part of the curriculum. One year, we did the phases of the moon craft and asked the kids to watch out for the waxing and waning of the moon throughout the month.

To preempt any misunderstanding, meet with the teacher and/or principal and show her your material. For example, the Adam’s World Ramadan DVD is a great resource, so I asked the classroom teacher to preview it beacuse she is more familiar with the school disctrict’s rules; she chose to show the second stanza onwards of thenasheed “We scanned the sky” by Dawud Wharnsby Ali – it was such a hit!! The kids kept asking her to replay it over and over again.

There are several great books on the subject that are perfect for sharing during story-time.

My First Ramadan by Karen Katz – this little book is perfect for preschoolers – 2nd graders and makes a great gift for the class library.  You can mix in a nasheed. It was amazing watching my daughter’s preschool class holding hands in a circle singing along to the chorus of ‘These are the days of Eid.”

Hamza’s First Fast by Asna Chaudhry – I read this book to my daughter’s third grade class, which led to a great discussion where kids of all different faiths talked about how their parents fast too. “Oooh, my mom fasts too, on Lent! Mine fasts to lose weight! We do it too on Yom Kippur” The kids gushed after I finished my presentation. My daughter loved being the center of attention and the discussion was alive for days.

The Three Muslim Festivals is a beautifully illustrated book that has stories of Muslim kids celebrating Ramadan, Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Adha in a western country. It is a must-have for every Muslim kids’ library, and to educate others, gift it to your school library.

Print out some Ramadan activities for your kid’s classmates to color or crafts that they can make.

Send in Eid gifts – its great dawah. It’s the beginning of the school year; it will break the ice and help your child feel special. Alhamdulillah, the children in our elementary school look forward to being in my kid’s classroom and remember that Zahrah doesn’t celebrate Christmas. They don’t have to be elaborate; pencils, dollar-store toys, chapsticks, ahandmade rendering of their names in Arabic, etc. Attach a tag that says Eid Saeed/Happy Eid.

If your school has a newsletter and the administration wishes the students on their religious holidays then do ask for Muslim holdays to be acknowledged as well.  This little note started the beautiful tradition of wishing Muslim students Happy Eid in our elementary school.

For Middle/Junior High and High School Kids-

Fasting is fardh for most Muslim youth this age. A letter should be sent to the principal, homeroom teacher and especially the P.E. teacher. In this letter, explain your child’s physical and spiritual needs. This sample letter for high school can be adjusted to fit your family.With so many Muslim kids participating in team sports, coachs have to be included in this conversation. They are often concerned out of care and liability issues but a friendly letter or talk can ease their worries.

If your son wants to  follow the example of Muslim atheletes i.e. Hakeem Olajuwon and Husain Abdullah and man up to attending P.E.class, then let them. It is hard being the only guy in class sitting on the sidelines. (My maternal instinct says no way in this 102 degree weather, but  I give this advice based on talks with Muslim teens).

Make sure you make them get up for suhoor – if they are in the pratice of getting up for fajr this should be easy if not, use these tips for waking them up. Have them eat a healthy breakfast, say yes to the smoothies, multi-grain pancakes, oatmeal, and eggs their way. This is not the time to insist on a traditional meal from the home country. Keep them hydrated through the night with a water bottle designated just for your teen at their bedside.

Don’t go back to sleep after fajr – this is a great oppurtunity for family time. Read Quran together. It is one thing to tell your kids “Go read Quran” and quite another to read Quran to each other. They can also study at this time and do homework as well. This frees up the afternoons for dhikr, helping around the house, reading Quran and napping so your teenager is fresh for taraweeh.

Empower your children with information. When they are younger role-play with them so if friends ask them why they are fasting or if they are made fun of, they have some standard answers to give. For high school kids, have honest discussions about Ramadan, its virtues and its spiritual aspects; listen to or watch a lecture together.  They want their whys answered – so talk to them about the psychological aspects, about reflecting on their lives, about cleansing their spirit, about using this time to set up good habits for the rest of the  year.

Ask you teen to go to the library during lunch time or help out a teacher in class. Staying away from the cafeteria helps makes fasting easier.

Urge them to have a good attitude – “If you complain and say I am hungry – that’s just not good dawah and frankly people don’t care or will urge you to eat.” Listening and sharing other Muslim youths’ stories on how they handle Ramadan in school can spark great dialogue between teens, their parents and siblings.

Read the rest here

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***This post has been updated after it was published in Muslimmatters.org

The Day of Silence, which is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), fast approaches. This year it will take place in most public schools on April 16, 2010. On this day, “hundreds of thousands” of students plan on participating (Day of Silence website) in thousands of public high schools and increasing numbers of middle schools, which will allow students to remain silent throughout an entire day even during instructional time to promote GLSEN’s socio-political goals and its controversial, unproven, and destructive theories on the nature and morality of homosexuality. (American Family Association) GLSEN’s stance is against bullying of gay students and the silence they suffer not an all encompassing ‘bullying’ that is inclusive of students who suffer because they are called terrorist, refugee scum, or wog.

Elementary schools are next. In East London, to celebrate Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender History Month, primary school students watched a special adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet renamed Romeo and Julian. Stories covered in the lessons at George Tomlinson School included a fairytale about a prince who turns down three princesses before falling in love with one of their brothers and the tale of Roy and Silo – two male penguins who fall in love. (Guardian)

We as parents cannot remain passive about this. Even if you are not a parent and especially if you are a youth group leader, you need to make the parents in your life aware of this issue. Many parents are not aware of this movement or think that it will not affect their child. This lax attitude leads to us holding our heads when it is too late.

I’ll tell you how this attitude personally affected me. I attended an all-women liberal arts college in Wellesley, Massachusetts. During our first year orientation, we gathered in the common room where mats were laid out of us. A senior from the Gay and Lesbian Association (GALA) asked us to lie down on the mat and close our eyes. Scared to death, at 17 fresh off the plane from Lahore, Pakistan, I had no clue what they expected from us. It wasn’t anything promiscuous, God forbid. They just asked us to close our eyes and imagine a world where daddies were only married to daddies and mommies were married to mommies and if I was a little girl in that world, who liked the little boy across the street but I couldn’t because mommies could only marry mommies. Very innocent, the words.

Those words stuck with me and I still remember them after 17 years. “Once you have the vocabulary to talk with young children about homosexuality, it becomes very easy,” says Dr. Justin Richardson, a Harvard-educated psychiatrist and director of Columbia University’s Center for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Mental Health. Richardson says educators need to aid the pre-homosexual child with a supportive school environment, paving the way for his later coming out. He claims that a child’s sexual orientation is determined very early in life around four years of age, so why not prepare the pre-homosexual child for the inevitable? This quote by Dr. Richardson came from a talk he delivered ten years ago at a teachers’ conference. This agenda is at work in our public school system and the fitnah has created is real.

Also in my student orientation, I heard a young, black woman talk about her life as a poor, black, gay teenager. I met many intelligent women who were kind and gentle and gay. I remember being admonished by several housemates for thinking that homosexuality was a mental abnormality akin to physical abnormalities. I was figuratively ‘hypnotised’ into believing that it was natural for 10% of the human race to be homosexual believing that they could not control themselves. That December, when I went to visit my parents over winter break, my sister snapped me out of my brainwashed state. She said ‘Apa! Listen to yourself.’

In psychology, the study of brainwashing, often referred to as thought reform, falls into the sphere of “social influence.” According to Julia Layton, author of How Brainwashing Works, “social influence happens every minute of every day. It’s the collection of ways in which people can change other people’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. For instance, the compliance method aims to produce a change in a person’s behavior and is not concerned with his attitudes or beliefs. It’s the “Just do it” approach. Persuasion, on the other hand, aims for a change in attitude, or “Do it because it’ll make you feel accepted/good/happy/healthy/successful.”

The education method (which is called the “propaganda method” when you don’t believe in what’s being taught) goes for the social-influence goal, trying to affect a change in the person’s beliefs, along the
lines of “Do it because you know it’s the right thing to do.” Brainwashing is a severe form of social influence that combines all of these approaches to cause changes in an individual’s way of thinking without that person’s consent and often against his will.

I was 17; away from home but brimming with the confidence that children raised in a Muslim country exude. Now, imagine your middle schooler or your teen. Her politically correct classmates surround her; she doesn’t know what to say when her best honor society buddy starts exhibiting ‘homosexual’ traits. Imagine being a student whose religion teaches her that homosexuality is a sin being in that environment. Being judged by their peers because they did not remain silent in support. If you disagree with homosexuality you are called a bigot or a homophobe. Imagine your teachers and mentors who instruct you from 8 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon, framing their lessons around Day of Silence. The adolescent culture is liberal, and adolescents desire to fit in. The vast majority of conservative teens does not feel comfortable vocally opposing their culture and will not do so. We as adults, often don’t have the guts to speak up against homosexuality, let alone teenagers.

Alan Chambers, a gay man that has overcome unwanted homosexual desires, started a family, and is the author of Leaving Homosexuality says: “The Day of Silence leads to a slanted discussion about homosexuality…because students are being bombarded from every side on the issue of homosexuality…seemingly the only voices that are allowed or respected in the public school system are those from a pro-gay side. It’s important for everyone to have a voice on this issue and for every opinion to be expressed. If one side is going to be expressed, then the other should be as well.”

As a Muslim, I sympathize with others who suffer discrimination and denounce any violence in the name of ‘disapproval’ but agree with following stance:

“Day of Silence participants claim they seek to end discrimination. There is, however, a problem with the way “discrimination” is defined in public discourse today. Groups like GLSEN believe that statements of moral conviction with which they disagree constitute prejudice or discrimination. While relentlessly promoting this view, administrators are never asked to provide evidence for the dubious presuppositions on which such claims of discrimination are based. They are never asked to provide evidence for the arguable claim that homosexuality is equivalent to race; or that disapproval of homosexual conduct is equivalent to racism; or that homosexual impulses are biologically determined; or that the presence of biological influences in shaping desire renders a behavior automatically moral. Parents should demand justification for those claims. If we allow schools to define discrimination so expansively as to prohibit all statements of moral conviction, character development will be compromised and freedom of speech rights will be trampled. And if administrators continue to define discrimination in such a way as to preclude only some statements of moral conviction, they violate their pedagogical commitment to intellectual diversity and render the classroom a place of indoctrination.”

Think of your 15-year-old cousin, who can’t have girlfriend because it is against our deen that is teased at school, called a pansy and wonders whether he is. We need to talk about this and tell our children that Allah loves them and if they are having these feelings then they need spiritual help. Not shun them and turn them over to the wolves, force them out of the folds of Islam. I am not suggesting someone can ‘turn’ your kid gay or not. That is not my concern here.

Some parents worry that taking a stance will adversely affect their children’s grades. What kind of Muslims are we raising? “Cowardly conformists” or those who follow the footsteps of the Sahabah? We need to teach them to stand up for their beliefs even if they have to sacrifice something. If the teacher does punish them in some way this is unethical and the parents should take it to the school administration. “O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who disobey not, (from executing) the commands they receive from Allah, but do that which they are commanded.” [Quran At-Tahrim 66:6]

Most of the following material is from a website sponsored by Pro-Family groups calling for national support for Day of Silence Walkout. (www.doswalkout.net) Unfortunately Muslim organizations, media groups and masjids have shied away from supporting this cause. So spread the word on your masjid lists, Muslim websites, etc.

Parents must actively oppose this hijacking of the classroom for political purposes. You can help de-politicize the learning environment, which is paid for by our tax dollars, by calling your child out of school if your child’s school allows students to remain silent during instructional time on the Day of Silence. Brother Kevin Johnson asks, “Why would we want sexual orientation of any type to be taught to our young children? Isn’t that something that is personal and should be dealt with at home by the parents whenever they see fit? After all, the school system’s job is to educate children, not to raise them, that’s the job of the parent.”

If students will be permitted to remain silent, parents can express their opposition most effectively by removing their children from schools on the Day of Silence and sending letters of explanation to their administrators, their children’s teachers, and all school board members. One reason this is effective is that most school districts lose money for each student absence. School administrators err when they allow the classroom to be disrupted and politicized by granting students permission to remain silent throughout an entire day.

Day of Silence – What Should Parents Do?

1. Call your local schools and ask whether they permit students or teachers to remain silent in the classroom on the “Day of Silence.” IMPORTANT: Do not ask any administrator, school board member, or teacher if the school sponsors, endorses, or supports DOS. Schools do not technically sponsor the Day of Silence. Technically, it is students, often students in the gay-straight alliance, who sponsor it. Many administrators will tell you that they do not sponsor the DOS when, in fact, they do permit students and sometimes even teachers to remain silent during instructional time. Also ask administrators whether they permit teachers to create lesson plans to accommodate student silence.

2. Find out what date the event is planned for your school. (The national date in 2010 is April 16, but some schools observe DOS on a different date).

3. Inform the school of your intention to keep your children home on that date and explain why. Download the sample letter from lordsfavor.wordpress.com or from doswalkout.net

4. Explain to your children why you’re taking a stand:

a. What does Islam say about homosexuality.

b. No matter what factors may influence homosexual feelings, freely chosen homosexual behavior is immoral and should be resisted.

c. Homosexuality is not equivalent to race.

d. Disapproval of homosexuality is not equivalent to racism; nor is it hatred; nor is it bullying; nor does it constitute an incitement to violence. It is permissible and ethical to express disapproval of homosexuality. Just because someone may feel bad when hearing that someone disapproves of homosexuality does not mean that disapproval is cruel or wrong.

e. No school should support a view of homosexuality that is unproven and controversial, and that is physically, emotionally, and spiritually destructive to individuals and society.

f. No school should allow instructional time to be politicized.

g. Reiterate that the kids be civil or kind to anyone who exhibits homosexual behavior and make sincere dua for them. It is against the Muslim manners to participate in bullying or calling anyone names that hurt.

There is national support for Day of Silence Walkout.

Sample-call-out-letter fo Day of Silence

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This letter to my girls’ school, was in response to a letter written to all parents informing us of the upcoming school program where 1st and 4th graders would participate in a co-ed dance class. Keep it short, to the point and polite. Send it as an email to your LF’s teacher, the principal and vice-principal.

Dear Teachers and Administrators,
I would like to request the chance to have LF#1 and LF#2 opt out of the folk/square dance program for religious and personal reasons. We are not opposed to exposing them to dance as a form of artistic expression from other cultures, but we do not want them to participate in physically dancing, especially in a mixed (boy/girl) environment. We would prefer if they spend that time in the library researching and writing a paper, or reading etc.  We would like to help logistically in any way we can.
Mr. LF and I can come and speak to you in detail about our request if you wish.
Thanking you,
Mrs. LF
Telephone number- (xxx)999-9999
Disclaimer: This form letter is intended as potential information, “talking points” or idea stimulators only and in no way should it be considered complete, applicable in any particular case, or as legal advice or counsel; therefore, Lordsfavors.wordpress.com shall be absolved of any and all liabilities for the use, misuse or abuse of this suggested information. 3/28/10

I received the following response from one of the my daughter’s teachers. Alhamdulillah, the administration and the teachers were really understanding and accommodating.


Dear Mrs. LF,

If you have a book or other information about your culture or traditions, that LF#2 could write a report on during the time that the rest of the class is in dance, that would be great.  She could then share the report with us, and it would be a good learning experience for her and the class.

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