Amirah Publishing was founded by Yahiya Emerick in in order to further his ideal of publishing American-oriented literature on Islam. Much to his chagrin, Brother Yahiya found that many traditional Muslims were quite content with the old, outdated books imported from overseas and could not conceive of the need for literature specifically designed for the North American environment. After having written two books, which received wide acclaim in local Muslim circles, Brother Yahiya looked in vain for a publisher willing to work with him in this vision. After many Yahiya Emerick has been a prolific author and has written many articles that have been published in local as well as national magazines, both in North America and abroad. After many promises and vague arrangements, he decided to form his own company and work for Allah as best he knew how.
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It seems hardly a week goes by before it appears on yet another website. Given that the article was written almost a decade ago, and because times have changed, I felt compelled to write something of an update, or a part two, so to speak. To begin, by way of summary, my previous article focused on both the shortcomings and strengths to be found in the American Islamic Educational "system". Specifically the way in which school administrators often treated their colleagues in disrespectful and unprofessional ways, the way in which schools were often set up and operated by medical and engineering professionals who had no idea how a school should be structured and operated, and the problems of a student body in which many of the children and their families had next to no clue about even many basic Islamic beliefs and practices, who were patronizing the Muslim schools for little other reason than the fact that it was a safer and more wholesome environment than their local public schools.
My conclusion was not colored by any rosy forecast or sense of negativism or pessimism, however, but rather by a profound realization that we need Islamic schools, however imperfect they are, or we run the risk of extinction as an identifiable American religious sect.
The full time schools are, quite simply, the only place where kids have the chance to "feel" Muslim for five days of the week. It is an "immersion" experience- a poor one, considering an Islamic society is the best way to "pass on" core values uninterrupted, yet the only one that Muslim kids in this country can find.
It is the only way for our youth to ever develop a sense of group consciousness. It must be said that most immigrant Muslim families that I have been exposed to are very work and career-oriented, more so than any other community in this large and diverse country. Consequently, I have found that fathers, and sometimes mothers, are mostly absent from the home.
I am not alone in these alarmist opinions. Nearly every teacher in a Muslim school that I have ever talked to complains about the same thing: there is just not that much active, informed and morally imperative parenting going on in the Muslim community!
The running joke among many teachers is that every other student admitted to an Islamic School comes to them with a note taped to their back which reads: "Save my child! And you think they even have a chance of inculcating Islam? Scratch that. Most adults with Muslim sounding names have never really learned Islam themselves, instead, they immigrated here as economic refugees from cultures that had already misused or misplaced Islam, looking for the American Dream wealth and ease and then they expect their children to be as industrious as they are.
Look at current statistics; education in the United States is eroding yearly. Families are breaking up at a record pace. Youth culture has gone bananas! Do you think your child will be learning to be a hard-working, goals-oriented person? Do you think those friends of his or her will be reinforcing punctuality, patience and long term strategic planning in them? And you wanted your kid to be a thoughtful, hard working doctor one day! There is a huge number of people, whom our pollsters count as "Muslims" who have no connection to Islam at all!
Where I live you see them sometimes. Is this what you want for your children, grandchildren? When did we forget that all life is a test and that to Allah we will return?
The mother was boasting to me how multicultural her teenage son is because he has so many friends of various ethnic backgrounds. They dress and act how? Do you know among themselves all they talk about is girls and sports stars and wild parties? Where is the medical school in his future?
Where is the ticket to heaven? Another family from a Muslim country that only enriched the strength of the kuffar lifestyle and culture. So how do Islamic Schools help a family keep their children on the road to faith and the road to academic success? Are there some "good" public schools? Well, that depends on how you are defining "good". Sure, there are still many public schools with good academic programs. Your daughter could be pursuing boys or being pursued- or worse!
Not to mention the values they will automatically pick up despite your best efforts. Are you so naive to believe they are all harmless? I just shake my head when I see the parents who have so little forethought. Do you know how many Arab and Indo-Pak girls take drugs or have boyfriends, for example? If anecdotes are any indication it may be a very high percentage.
The parents see all the hip TV shows showing the worst anti-religious values and they never stop to think that their child, watching too, may actually come to accept and participate in those values.
The kind of Islam that teaches us to be introspective, thoughtful, kind, charitable, tolerant and open-minded. I mentioned once in a gathering recently that the only redeeming after-effect of the September 11th tragedy was that it finally forced Arab and Indo-Pak Muslims to finally feel and understand the kinds of discrimination and irrational racism that African Americans have been feeling for the last several centuries in this land.
Before that dastardly attack, immigrant Muslims were used to being ignored by their neighbors and lived in the blissful shadows of an unknowing American public. Incidents of discrimination were relatively rare and some of our neighbors even took us into their hearts thinking we were "cute," in a way, with our colorful clothes and yummy foods. Crisis brings out the best and worst in people, and this one caused a lot of otherwise dormant Muslims to stand up and fight for their rights.
You cannot believe how was a boon for Islamic school enrollments. It feels good, in a bizarre sort of way, to tell parents we have no more room and that they have to join the long waiting list. Although I really, in hindsight, wish we could be a place of refuge for all Muslim kids, especially the younger ones, who are our precious future.
An Islamic school often does not have the bells and whistles of your local public school, but it has a more serious and rigorous environment. All of these, and other factors, disrupts the learning environment and makes it hard for kids to concentrate, even if they have mostly good teachers.
How can you study when the girl in the third row is pregnant, the boy behind you is cussing under his breath, the girl near the right side of class in the mini-skirt is cute to look at and the boy in the next grade wants to beat you up after school? Muslim schools, for the most part, are devoid of these problems. No gangs, no rap clothes, no racial slurs, no curse words, no dating, no violence. When one of these problems does seem to creep up, and its always brought into the school from an outsider, newly admitted from public school, the Islamic school can eject the offending parasite from the otherwise healthy body.
There are enough bad school cultures. Let there be some place where a normal, well-adjusted family can send their child to learn without distraction, and without being turned into a statistic. He or she will still learn to be a doctor, even if they go to an under funded and struggling Islamic school. They will be a better doctor because only in an Islamic school will they learn that medicine is not just about big bucks, but about the people you help, for the sake of Allah.
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Books by Yahiya Emerick
By Yahiya Emerick The Meaning of the Holy Qur'an for School Children
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