In Washington state, the News Tribune
adopts the role of Islamic Public Relations Tool to assure us that the growing trend of religious indoctrination of Muslim children is nothing to be worried about
, it's just like what Christians and Jews do.
Here's an excerpt (emphasis mine):
Now a growing Muslim population in America is importing a rite of passage called Ameen ... The cultural practice is a mostly South, Southeast and Central Asian one, familiar to perhaps a third of Muslims in the United States.
It has two parts. The first Ameen, or Amen, is held when a child finishes reading the Quran, roughly the length of the New Testament, for the first time in Arabic. The child reads the holy book aloud, sounding it out without necessarily understanding it.
America has many cultural distractions, which is why Muslim parents here have to take a more active role involving their children in the faith, says Fareez Ahmed, a 21-year-old graduate of George Washington University.
In America, Ahmed would memorize the Quran three hours a day and review for another five or six hours.
“The practice is definitely increasing,” he says. He has five students to teach when he returns to the United States. “Especially with the current international situation, it’s really important to know what the Quran really says about certain issues,” he adds.
Classes about the meaning of the passages will come as the children get older.
"America has many cultural distractions"? Indeed, like Little League, after-school clubs, summer camps, dances, garage bands, and hanging out at the Dairy Queen. Nothing like Saudi Arabia, where parents fret over the malaise evident in the growing "mall culture" to which teenagers are drawn. An opinion piece in Arab News
last summer called for increased promotion of extracurricular activities
for children and teens:
With little to do many children and teens have turned to the habit of late nights of TV watching and shopping, unproductive evenings, and non-existent mornings ... A young Saudi describes her daily routine as “waking at 12:30 in the afternoon, sitting with my family, eating dinner, and then going out at nine to the mall with friends.”
For Saudi children and teens, school is usually the only time they are mentally stimulated. After school, most do not take part in any extracurricular activities and this can work against them ... “It is very important for children to be involved in arts education and sports,” said Dr. Manal I. Madini, a professor of Early Childhood Education at King Abdul Aziz University.
The impetus for such "cultural distractions" whithers in the Muslim world due to Islam's ambivalence about art, music, and sports. Why would a society encourage its youth to create art when powerful clerics regard creation as suspect, as a potential offense to Allah, the one true creator? Even the Hamas Charter
devotes a section (Article Nineteen) to the kind of art they wish to see, just in case little Ahmed was thinking of picking up a crayon instead of a gun:
Art has regulations and measures by which it can be determined whether it is Islamic or pre-Islamic (Jahili) art. [ed.--It's important to note that the Arabic term "jahili" does not mean simply "pre-Islamic," but is frequently applied to present-day, non-Islamic cultures as well.] The issues of Islamic liberation are in need of Islamic art that would take the spirit high, without raising one side of human nature above the other, but rather raise all of them harmoniously and in equilibrium.
Man is a unique and wonderful creature, made out of a handful of clay and a breath from Allah. Islamic art addresses man on this basis, while pre-Islamic art addresses the body giving preference to the clay component in it. [ed.--Here we see plainy how Muslims are still struggling against humanism.]
The book, the article, the bulletin, the sermon, the thesis, the popular poem, the poetic ode, the song, the play and others, contain the characteristics of Islamic art, then these are among the requirements of ideological mobilization, renewed food for the journey and recreation for the soul. The road is long and suffering is plenty. The soul will be bored, but Islamic art renews the energies, resurrects the movement, arousing in them lofty meanings and proper conduct. "Nothing can improve the self if it is in retreat except shifting from one mood to another."
All this is utterly serious and no jest, for those who are fighters do not jest.
That last line looks to me like a thinly veiled threat against any artists who might think of straying from accepted Islamic forms. Not a great way to entice the kids into a life in the arts.
Music gets worse treatment in Islamic culture, since many Muslims hold all music other than Koranic recitation to be haram. Here's a straighforward quote on music and singing from one Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence) site
Listening to music and singing is a sin and cause for the sickening and weakening of the heart. The majority of the scholars of the Salaf are unanimous that listening to music and singing and using musical instruments is Haram (prohibited).
So much for the Glee Club. I know I'm inviting comments from offended "moderate" Muslims who will protest that their
particular brand of Islam has nothing to do with such pronouncements. Such objections are nothing more than a tiresome shell game made possible by the fact that Islam itself is structured like a terrorist organization. The faith has no definable central authority and is in effect divided into numerous cells, each of which can claim to have nothing to do with the actions of the others while secretly sharing the same basic ideology and goals.
So arts, music, and dancing (obviously) are off the list. There are still sports. Well, maybe not. Here's a quote from one site addressing the issue of sports vs. Allah
Apparently, the great enigma of this day and age is we love everything other than Allah and His Prophet . The non-believers have enchanted us through their devious tricks. Our hearts have hardened. We do not recognise the truth when in front of us! Contrary to the lives of the Sahabah our lives revolve around everything, but the teachings of the Prophet. Presently, a cancer has infected our youth. This cancer is football!
The writer means soccer, of course. The cancer of American football hasn't afflicted the youth of the Middle East yet, mainly because it requires equipment
that did not exist 1400 years ago and does not blow its wearer to smithereens.
Muslim kids who do get involved in sports often find themselves up against archaic attitudes that strip the game of half its fun. In Chicago, the girl's basketball team at the Islamic and oddly named Universal School are weary of playing only against other Islamic schools because of gender Apartheid.
Around her, other high school girls dressed in similar flowing robes shoot a few casual baskets while they wait for practice to begin. There are no men in the gym--no male coaches, no boys from school, no dads or brothers in the bleachers. So when the coach arrives and the real training starts, they can peel off their Islamic dress, exposing their sweat pants and short-sleeved T-shirts underneath.
"We'd run if we noticed a man peeking in the window," Hamoud, 16, explains. "We're not allowed to be seen by guys without [Islamic dress]. We've all learned to accept that." But the girls can't accept that they have only been allowed to compete against girls basketball teams from other Muslim schools. There are only four in the Chicago area [ed.--Only four!?], they complain, and their competition isn't exactly tough. Since last year they've been beseeching Coach Farida Abusafa, 26, an English teacher who also coaches sports, to ask public schools and non-Muslim private schools if their girls teams would be willing to compete against girls from the Universal School. The problem is the schools would have to agree to bar men and boys above the age of puberty from watching the games.
The article goes on to point out what the real issue is here, and it bears an uneasy resemblance to the uproar over non-Muslim Danish cartoonists not observing Muslim strictures forbidding the depiction of Muhammed. Now I won't be allowed to watch my daughter's basketball game when she plays against a Muslim team!
The Universal School's principal, Farhat Siddiqi, said there was no reason the girls wouldn't be allowed to play teams from public schools or other private schools as long as the prohibition barring men was strictly observed. But she worries parents from other schools might object.
"I don't want to have to impose our religious requirements on anyone else," Siddiqi said.
Is it just me, or does it sound like Siddiqi didn't finish that last sentence? And I think the ending goes: "... but I will."
How would we look upon any other group (say, a Christian one, or Hindu, or Wiccan) that behaved as the ummah is today--isolating their youth from society at large, requiring pre-adolescents to forgo "cultural distractions" and spend hours each day memorizing a religious text in a language they do not understand, and bursting into belligerent or violent outrage at each supposed offense to their faith? We would probably label such a group a "cult," and at the very least marginalize it. Instead, the west has adopted a policy of appeasement toward the cult of Islam. This policy can lead nowhere but straight into a conflagration that may well devour generations of youth, as we are forced to defend with the gun the values we failed to defend with the pen.