Across faith communities, religious practices have many similarities, although the details of time and procedure may differ from one religion to another. The information contained in this booklet is designed to assist teachers, principals, administrators, and other educators in formulating and implementing policies and programs that will help to create a culturally sensitive and supportive academic environment. It will also serve as a guide for the accommodation of religiously mandated practices of Muslim students and their families. The information in this guide outlines general Islamic beliefs and practices. Individual applications of these observances may vary.
Halal(Hah-LAAL): Permissible by Islamic law.
Hij’ab(Hee-JAB): Clothing Muslim women wear in public. It is generally loose fitting and includes a head covering.
Jum’ah(JOO-mah): Friday congregational prayer, the Muslim weekly worship service.
Kufi(KOO-fee): A cap sometimes worn by Muslim men.
Qur’an(QUR-an): Islam’s scripture, sometimes spelled Koran.
Ramadan(RAHM-a-daan): The month of fasting.
. The First Amendment to the Constitution protects the free exercise of religion and prevents government from establishing a state religion.
. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. Schools that are recipients of federal funds must generally follow federal anti-discriminatory policies or risk the loss of federal funds.
. The Equal Access Act of 1984(upheld by the Supreme Court in 1990) affirms the right of student-initiated religious clubs to campus media and other resources if the school recieves federal funds and permits other student curricular clubs to the same access and resources. Many state laws contain provisions that protect religious rights from government infringement. In particular, many include important legal protections that require schools to take action against bullying and harassment of students that is based on race, color, national origin, sex, or disability.
. The Oklahoma Religious Freedom Restoration Act(51 OK Stat. $ 51-253) prohibits a government entity from substantially burdening a person’s free exercise of religion unless it demonstrates that the burden is essential to further a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government’s interest,
. Oklahoma’s anti bullying law, the School Safety and Bullying Prevention Act, requires that each district board of education adopt a policy that prohibits harassment, intimidation, and bullying by students at school and addresses education and prevention.
. Pepperoni, sausage, and hot dogs containing pork.
. Bacon – alone or in soups, quiche, etc.
. Animal shortening – in breads, puddings, cookies, cakes, and donuts.
. Gelatin – in Jello, desserts, candies, marshmallows, chocolates, etc.
Food ingredients containing alcohol such as vanilla extract and Dijon mustard.
School lunch items containing ingredients derived from pork must be highlighted clearly, especially in elementary schools. For preschool and elementary food programs, many school cafeterias have been particularly helpful to Muslim parents and students by labeling such food with a prominent visual marker. such as a red dot or a picture of a pig, for beginning readers. Most schools provide non-meat options for or other alternatives to objectionable food items. Where parents are allowed to bring snacks or treats to the classroom, it is important to notify them that Muslim students may not be able to consume certain food items and plan accordingly.
Men and young boys may choose to wear clothing that covers them from the navel to the knee. Also, some male Muslim students wear a small head covering, called a kufi. Many older boys choose to grow beards for religious reasons as well.
When in public, Muslim women often wear loose fitting, non-revealing clothing, known as hijab. This attire, which may vary in style, usually includes covering the hair, neck, and body. Some Muslim women may wear a veil, commonly referred to as a niqab.
Schools may have uniform requirements and no hat policies, as well as dress codes that mandate certain standards of appearance for students. However, schools should provide appropriate modifications to their policies for religiously mandated clothing such as head scarves and skullcaps.
The wearing of a head covering may lead to teasing by other students. Teachers should prevent classmates from pulling on or removing a Muslim student’s scarf. Such an action is serious act of bullying and harassment that must be addressed by school staff and administration.
School administrators may discuss alternative clothing in physical education classes with required uniform or clothing changes with students and parents. Alternatives could include knee length shorts for boys and track suits for girls.
Muslim students should not be forced to participate in coed swimming classes. Schools that require swimming skills have offered outside certification as an option or permitted Muslim students to swim in religiously appropriate clothing, such as a burkini or layered swim clothing.
Also, Muslim may raise religious objections to co ed and to school sponsored dances. In particular, activities where students of different genders are required to physically touch or come into contact with one another may be objectionable to Muslim students and families. No student should be pressured to participate or penalized for not taking part in such activities. Where possible, students should be provided with appropriate accommodations or with an alternate activity.
There are several days in the Muslim calendar with special religious differences, but the major celebrations common to all Muslims are the two Eid(holiday) days. The first Eid day is celebrated on the day after the month of Ramadan(the month of fasting) and is called Eid-al Fitr. The first Eid day is celebrated after the month of Ramadan(the month of fasting) and is called Eid Al Fitr. The second is celebrated on the tenth day of the twelfth Islamic month and is called Eid-al-Adha. The festivities include congregational prayer, gatherings with family and friends, and gifts and entertainment, especially for children. A typical greeting on these occasions is “Eid Muburak, “Blessed Eid.”
Celebrating Eid requires that Muslims take one day off from school. There should be no penalty for this religious objection. Because the occurrence of Eid depends on the sighting for the new moon, the exact date cannot be determined with certainty until a few days before the holiday. Most Muslim students and families do their best to notify teachers and administrators as far as in advance of the holiday as possible.
Muslim communities around the country would like to see that Eid receives recognition similar to that given to Christmas and Hanukkah, especially in schools where Muslims constitute a significant segment of the student population. Where the number of Muslim students is low, schools can demonstrate commitment to diversity by refraining from marking students absent when they do not attend school on Eid. Also, major events(games, exams, plays, etc) should be scheduled around the holidays.
Oklahoma law requires that children be excused on religious holy days provided a parent or guardian request the excused absence.
Ramadan is a period of self-restraint and a time to focus on moral conduct. It is also a time to empathize with those who are less fortunate and appreciate what one has. Fasting does not, however, mean that Muslims cease to work.
Fasting is prescribed when children reach the age of puberty. Many Muslim families allow their young children to experiment with throughout all or part of the day. Fasting students should be allowed to go to the school library or another safe space instead of the cafeteria during lunch. Also, they should be excused from strenuous physical activity during the fast, particularly when Ramadan falls during the hot summer months. Teachers should monitor their students closely to ensure that Muslim students do not become dehydrated during hot summer weather.
To turn the diversity in the classroom to educational advantage, many schools invite Muslim students or guest speakers, many schools invite Muslim students or guest speakers to explain the practices and traditions surrounding the Ramadan fast. This will help Muslim students avoid a feeling of awkwardness about not having lunch with his or her fellow students during the month. By providing opportunities for students of varied religious backgrounds to share their special occasions, the school helps to support parents and communities in their efforts to teach beneficial values. Such information is also important preparation for students as future citizens.
In a number of cases, Muslim children have been mocked as “devil worshippers”, “sand n–geners”, “towel heads”, or “camel jockeys’. Others are called “terrorists” or are taunted with references to violent extremists such as ISIS. Young Muslim women are often particularly vulnerable and have been subjected to physical assault or forceful removal of their headscarves.
School boards may want to review policies and programs in light of the increasing Muslim population in the public school system. Textbooks that contribute to religious prejudice are not suitable for educating students. Books that lack reliable education are usually replete with mistakes about the basic Islamic beliefs. One common error is the definition of “Allah” as a particular Muslim God rather than the same God of Christianity and Islam. Qualified Muslim educators should participate in the textbook selection process, particularly for history, social studies, and geography texts.
Close contact with local Islamic centers is essential to encourage input from the Muslim community. Oklahoma law requires that class materials should be available for review and parents should have the option to remove their children from all or part of the program.
During the prayer, the Muslim is fully engaged. He or she may not respond to a conversation. Students and teachers should not take offense if the worshipper does not answer their call during the prayer. However in case of an emergency, the Muslim will respond to an announcement by stopping the prayer immediately.
. Mark items with a red dot or a picture of the pig.
. Provide alternate lunch options such as vegetarian meals and snacks.
. Schedule exams and other major events around holidays
. Do not mark students absent or note that their absence is excused from a religious holiday.
. Allow students to study in the library or elsewhere during lunch.
. Monitor students for overheating or dehydration in excessively hot weather.
. Discuss clothing requirements with Muslim parents.
. Reschedule classes for students preferring same gender environment.
. Provide students with alternate activities if they cannot participate.
. Do not extend hand first for handshake with members of different genders.
. Avoid touching when comforting students and parents of different genders.
. Respect student boundaries and allow them to choose whether they wish to hug or hold hands with members of different genders.
Family Life/Sex Education program
. Allow parents reasonable time to review any material dealing with sex education.
. Allow children to opt out from all or part of the program.
. Allow Muslim students to pray in unused room.
. Provide them with privacy and space, as well as a clean place to perform ritual washing.
Fairness in Classroom and Text Presentations
. Check textbooks and curricula for religious bias.
. Invite Muslim speakers to social studies and world religion classes.
. Encourage class discussion that embraces diversity, tolerance, and an inclusive classroom environment.