Muslim and Arab Education in the West

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Dr. Nimat Hafez Barazangi began her combined scholarly active work with the education of Arabs and Muslims in North America and in the Arab/Muslim world in late 1960s. Her focus was the integration of the young generation within the Western educational and cultural systems without loosing their Islamic/Arabic identity. Her many years of participatory action research with the Muslim/Arab community, in order to develop curricular framework for educating them in Islam, culminated in her editing a special issue of Religion and Education as well as the special chapter in her monograph Woman's Identity and the Qur'an: A New Reading. She also published about 15 research articles on this subject.

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Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 9 of 9
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    Arab Muslim Identity Transmission: Parents and Youth
    Barazangi, Nimat Hafez (Association of Arab-American University Graduates, 1989)
    Effective Islamic identity transmission requires determination of the nature and extensiveness of the different interpretations held by parents and their children and the ways these interpretations are reflected in their practice of Islam and association with Arabic heritage. Fifteen Arab Muslim families of varied nationalities were interviewed as part of a larger study on Muslims in North America. The findings indicate that parents and youth have significantly different perceptions. Parents have higher levels of perception for the central concept of Islam, i.e., Tawhid (Oneness of God), but only in abstract form, whereas youth tend to emphasize some of the auxiliary concepts of Islam, i.e., human-interrelation behavior, but in the context of Western values. This may explain (1) difficulties parents encounter in effectively transmitting the Islamic belief system and/or the Arabic heritage to their children, (2) the youths' inability to distinguish between the Islamic/Arabic and the Western systems on the ideological level, and (3) the youths' confusion concerning their roots and history.
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    The Education of North American Muslim Parents and Children: Conceptual Change As a Contribution to Islamization of Education
    Barazangi, Nimat Hafez (Association of Muslim Social Scientists, 1990)
    Four points of investigation are needed to develop a theoretical model for the Islamization of education in the context of the pluralistic societies of N. America. (1) The dynamics by which Muslims have arrived at a view of Islam that causes them to practice it in a particular way, (2) the variation in the conception and practice of Islam between the immigrant parents and their offspring, on one hand, and between the immigrant and the native Muslims, on the other, (3) the extent to which Muslims perceive the Western secular view to be in conflict with their own view as reflected in their adjustment process and in their transmission of the "Islamic" heritage, and (4) the ability of the educators to design programs that can reconcile the conflict, apparent or real, between the Islamic and the Western views of life and education. The underlying assumptions are that in addition to the historical development of the Islamic conceptual ecology and its secular Western counterpart, the Muslims of N. America also have a distinct history and a living experience to be investigated. Moreover, understanding the subject matter, Islam, requires an investigation of the documents pertaining to it, namely al-Qur'an and the books of hadith. This investigation is a must for understanding (1) the variation in meanings given to the present ideas, (2) the relative stability or change in the conception and practice of the Islamic tenets over time, and (3) the new conception(s) and approach(s) to "Islamized education." The aim is to determine (1) the Muslims' synthesis of all the factors (such as religion and faith, moral and cognitive development, socioanthropological demands, and pedagogical approaches) that have been secularized because of specialized approaches to human learning, (2) the level and type of awareness that the faithful individual has about human and revealed knowledge, (3) whether the individual is operating within the central concept of Islam, i.e., Tawhid (Oneness of God as the Source of knowledge and value), or within another concept that is outside of Tawhid that entails duality and secularity in education, and (4) whether or not curriculum designers are able to distinguish between Islam as the underlying value system and Islam as the subject matter as well as the encompassing social milieu. The curriculum specialist developing programs for Muslim communities in pluralistic societies must keep in mind (1) the governing ideology (the belief system) and the authority (experts) who determine the type of "Islamic" knowledge, (2) the level of the experts'/learners' awareness of the relationship between their own conception of the ideology and the forces that govern their drawing of values and codes and, hence, the practice of the faith, and (3) the structure and means by which he or she can move from the Islamic philosophical system into an Islamic pedagogical system. Three basic conditions, therefore, are essential for a program design and for a theoretical model of the Islamization of education: (1) to understand the Islamic educational pedagogy vis-a-vis the Western pedagogy, (2) to adopt an eclectic view of curriculum and to incorporate it with the reconstruction of religious thought in Islam(3) to keep in mind the epistemological, familial and contextual compositions and their effect on attitudinal and conceptual change of the learner.
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    Acculturation of North American Arab Muslims: Minority Relations or Worldview Variations
    Barazangi, Nimat Hafez (Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, 1990)
    The main objective of this study is to explore the concept of minority/majority relations as the underlying assumption in studying empowering and adjustment strategies of North American Arab Muslims (NAAM). That Muslims are viewed as Arabs, Turks, Pakistanis, etc. is a hindrance to the understanding of the metaphysical and epistemological variations between the Islamic and the Western secular worldviews, on one hand, and the Islamic and the Arabic acculturation processes, on the other. Attempts to develop an integrative Islamic education program for Arab Muslims, therefore, have failed mainly because NAAM view themselves, and are being studied, as an ethnic minority rather than a "mainstream" majority. Based on this view, "Islamic" education programs have emphasized the ideals of the Ummah (the Islamic State) and the teaching of Arabic as the empowering strategies for the Arab Muslim minority. Acculturation practices among Arab Muslims, however, have emphasized ethnic preservation strategies that do not empower these groups either with the privileges of recognized minorities (i.e., classified racial and socioeconomic groups such as Afro-Americans and Hispanics) or with the acceptance by the prevailing "color prejudice" majority. Results from the author's doctoral research project indicate that the majority of immigrant Arab Muslim adults have resolved this conflict between ideal and practice by separating their religious, ethnic, and secular societal lives. These adults also view the transmission of the Islamic/Arabic identity only as a transmission of religious teachings and ethnic traditions. The youth, on the other hand, remain unclear of their group identity and of its association with the larger society . The findings and the implications of this study are applicable to any group of people, Muslims or non-Muslims, who share a different worldview from that of the larger host society.
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    Parents and Youth: Perceiving and Practicing Islam in North America
    Barazangi, Nimat Hafez (Alberta University Press, 1991)
    This chapter examines how some Arab Muslim youth and families in North America perceive themselves both as Arabs and as Muslims in the context of Canadian and United States societies. Parents are concerned with how best to transmit the Islamic ideological and Arab cultural heritage to their children. One of their problems derives from differences among Arab Muslims, who come from varied national origins and hold several interpretations of the Islamic view, not all of which are based on the Qur'an; as a result they also have different nationalistic attachments to their understanding of Arab heritage. A second problem arises between immigrant parents and their American-reared children. The children may participate in American culture to a greater extent than their parents, and they are constantly faced with the conceptual need to accommodate potentially conflicting points of view. Effective identity transmission requires the determination of the nature and extent of the different interpretations held by parents and their children and of the way these interpretations are reflected in their practice of Islam and association with the Arabic heritage.
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    Islamic Education in the United States and Canada: Conception and Practice of the Islamic Belief System
    Barazangi, Nimat Hafez (Oxford University Press, 1991)
    This study examines the way immigrant Muslim parents and their offspring perceive Islam and view its practice in the context of the Societies of the United States and Canada. Historically and at present, the worldview of North American Muslims has generally differed from that of other groups who are either natives of or immigrants to North America. Yet not until recently has any substantial research been done on the presence of Muslims in North America let alone on their learning patterns or the role of differing worldviews in the education of their children. Muslims may not be considered a minority ethnic group because they neither have the characteristics of the term minority ethnic nor Constitute a single linguistic, cultural, or socioeconomic group. Study of Muslims simply as minority ethnics or national groups will not help in understanding the variations in their attempts to maintain their Islamic identity. That is because, as Abdo A. Elkholy notes, "As Muslims in America are being assimilated, as Arabs, Turks, and other ethnic groups, many do not see the religious wrong in mixed marriage." Elkholy's observation relates to communicating Islam in North America on two levels. The first level is the way Muslims perceive themselves and hence identify with (a) Islam as a way of life, (b) Muslims as a religious group with which one may affiliate, or (c) nationality/ethnicity as an identity given to the Muslim subcultures by Western colonizers. The Muslim's perception of his/her own identity is the cornerstone in his/her ability to adjust to the new environment while maintaining the basics of the Islamic belief system and to transmit that system to the next generation in an integrative manner. This perception of identity determines whether one's response is assimilation, integration, or withdrawal. The second level pertains to the realities of the North American pluralistic societies and their implicit and explicit demands for individual conformity to societal "norms." North American societies are established on a secular value system. They may allow for different religious practices, in the narrow sense of the word, but may not allow for ideological and epistemological differences. Therefore, Muslims will be assimilated as subcultural groups (Arabs, Turks, etc.) despite vigorous attempts by Muslim leaders and organizations to maintain the Islamic identity. These leaders have failed to recognize that assimilation will persist as long as people's identity is in a state of confusion between ideological (Islamic), religious (Muslim), and ethnic (Arab, Turks, etc.) attachments. The clarity or confusion of one's identity is the key to the variation in Muslims' assimilation. The degree of Muslims' religiosity, as suggested by Elkholy, is only a part in the question of identification. The effort of any Muslim community in North America to formulate an educational program that will transmit the Islamic cultural and ideological heritage to its children is viewed here more as a conceptual than a socio-anthropological problem.
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    Particularism and Multi-Cultural Education: Experience of Muslims in the United States
    Barazangi, Nimat Hafez (The Islamic Academy, 1993)
    An elementary school Muslim girl responded to her mother with the phrase, "BUT MOM, ALL MY FRIENDS DO THAT! WHY CAN'T I?" questioning the need to be different every time the mother said "No" to an activity the girl wanted to join neighborhood boys and girls in doing. The mother often contradicted herself and allowed her daughter to play because she was not able to explain the rationale for being different. The mother's spontaneous "No" response comes from the fact that in her home Islamic culture, children's activities are not usually separate from those of the family. Also, children rarely played in sexually heterogeneous groups where she was raised (the Indian subcontinent). Under the daughter's persistence, the mother gave permission, rationalizing to herself that a bicycle ride or video game with the neighborhood children would not affect the "Islamic" identity and values of her daughter. The mother rarely interacted with the parents of her daughter's playmates. She hardly knew who the playmates were or who supervised the play. Her understanding of these neighbors' values and worldview came only from what she saw manifested in their external behavior and in the norms of the society at large. The mother had contacts mainly with other mothers from her country of origin. When the young girl reached puberty, her father, who rarely participated in decision making concerning his daughter's upbringing, told the young girl that she was to dress differently, she was no longer to have unnecessary conversations with boys, and she could no longer join in free play with her friends. The girl resisted her father's orders, and the mother supported her discreetly against the father's wishes. The mother thought that the father was being harsh and that there was no need to set such strict rules to ensure that the girl would develop the "Islamic" manners and the understanding of the "Islamic" religion as she, the mother, had been practicing it. When the girl became a high school student, she took swimming as one of the sport activities required in the physical education course. She did not realize that close contact with the opposite sex, particularly in immodest clothes (a bathing suit in the presence of the opposite sex), violates a basic precept of the Islamic principle of modesty.
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    Worldview, Meaningful Learning, and Pluralistic Education: The Islamic Perspective
    Barazangi, Nimat Hafez (Religion and Public Education, 1993)
    In this paper I attempt to bridge some of the needs and realities of American multicultural educational paradigms in the 1990s and the often ignored educational goals, principles, and assumptions in a liberal democratic society that aspires to pluralism. I will argue that (a) multicultural paradigms are as essential to improving "mainstream" education as they are to furthering the education of different cultural groups and (b) plurality should be concerned with meaningful learning in both a particular and a multiple perspective and worldview.
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    The Equilibrium in Islamic Education in the US
    Barazangi, Nimat Hafez (International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, 2000)
    American Muslims do face misconceptions, yet their view of the woman as morally dependent, hence socially and politically non-central to issues of Islamic and multicultural education is indeed problematic. How is it plausible for a morally dependent individual to instill the character of an autonomous spiritual and intellectual Muslim who can integrate effectively in a "pluralistic" society? A change in the paradigm of moral or religious education beyond multiculturalism may be the solution.
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    The Legacy of a Remarkable Muslim Woman: Sharifa Alkhateeb
    Barazangi, Nimat Hafez (Association for Middle East Women's Studies, 2004)
    American Muslim intellectual, activist, journalist, writer, and friend to all Muslim women, Sharifa Alkhateeb, passed away Wednesday, October 21, 2004 AD/7 Ramadhan, 1425 AH. Sharifa has been an advocate for Muslims and more specifically Muslim women nationally and internationally for the last 35 years. She was the creator, co-founder, and president of the North American Council of Muslim Women (NACMW).