Muslim Home Schooling: An Assimilation Avoidance Measure
April 05, 2008, 05:00 AM
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A couple of years back, a young Muslim high school girl (born in the U.S. and who I`ll call "Haleema") came running up to me in a panic and said:

"Please talk to my father."

Right behind Haleema came her father ("Tariq") literally shaking with anger.

"Guzzardi," he said, "You tell that kid I`ll kill him if he doesn`t leave my daughter alone."

Here`s what led up to the incident. Haleema was the sister of a teaching aide who worked with me in one of my English as a second language courses. I had met and was friendly with her entire family.

At the time, Haleema was attending a summer school course in a room adjacent to mine. During her class, a boy ("Ted") passed a note to Haleema asking for her phone number.

Not understanding that the Islamic culture forbids socializing between the opposite sex before marriage, Ted followed Haleema out after school to inquire why she ignored him.

That`s when Haleema`s father, waiting to pick her up, saw them together and went ballistic.

Trying to calm Tariq down, I explained to him that the incident was meaningless—that Ted knew nothing of Islamic traditions (or probably much of anything else.) The best thing for everyone involved, I recommended, would be to dismiss Ted`s sophomoric advances as typical American teenage boy behavior.

Nothing further came of it. And I doubt that Tariq, his threats aside, would have killed Ted.

But it marked the ratcheting up of a tumultuous struggle between father and daughter over Haleema`s personal freedoms. Haleema wanted more liberties; Tariq allowed none.

Over the ensuing years, Tariq—fearful that she was meeting boys—followed Haleema when she drove off in the morning to attend college classes. While she was out of her bedroom, he searched through her personal effects looking for evidence that she might have had a boy friend.

Readers may think that the Tariq/Haleema example is extreme and unusual. And in some ways it is. Not every Muslim parent observes innocent exchanges between boys and girls. And not every adult would react as Tariq did.

But what`s also different about this case is that Tariq let his female daughters attend a local public high school and that he allowed them to go on to college.

Some parents prefer instead take their daughters out of school and then send them to their native country for an arranged marriage.

At my story`s center is the issue of assimilation. I`ll ask a two-part question:


  • Would they like to see their children, even as they may retain their religious beliefs, grow up to be Americans?

I`ve answered the first question—with a definitive "No!" — in a previous VDARE.COM column.

After nearly twenty years of personal experience teaching Muslim adult students—mostly those who were recent immigrants—I see no evidence of them being desirous of, even superficially, adapting to American ways.

Even though it may seem that students who come to English class indicate at least a ground level interest in assimilation (learning our language), that`s rarely the case.

For men, conversational ability in English represents the first step toward getting a job. Let`s not confuse employment with assimilation.

And for women, attending school offers them one of the few acceptable excuses to leave the house without their husbands, assuming another woman or one of their children accompanies them.

As for my second question regarding Muslim wishes for their children, examine their refusal to allow their kids to mingle with Americans.

When it comes to K-12 education for female teenagers, Muslims consider public schools morally bankrupt cesspools to be avoided at all costs—an opinion with which I partially agree.

Hence, many Muslim parents opt out, choosing instead to teach their kids at home.

In a recent story New York Times San Francisco-based reporter Neil Mac Farquhar, whose national beat is Islam, wrote about some of the pluses and minuses of Muslim home-schooling drawing on examples from—of all places—my hometown of Lodi, CA. [Many Muslims Turn To Home Schooling, By Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, March 26, 2008]

MacFarquhar`s thesis is that an increasing number of Americans, including Muslims, view home schooling as an excellent alternative to subjecting their children to the disaster that is U.S. public education.

Izzy Lyman, a VDARE.COM contributor, author of The Homeschooling Revolution and former homeschool blogger, agrees with me that the educational choice made by Muslims may not be entirely bad.

Lyman told me:

"These home schooling Muslims have made a profoundly American decision. They are exercising their Constitutional right to make use of an educational alternative that they feel protects their children from the many negative forces found in today`s public schools.

"My strict Hispanic parents did that for me when they sent me to an all-girl parochial school. Meanwhile, we spoke only Spanish at home, ate frijoles negroes, but still managed to attend New York Yankees games.

"Besides, if one-third of Americans don`t graduate from high school, why would anyone want to be part of that?"

But Hispanic isn`t Islamic and an all-girl Catholic school, as unforgiving as it may be, isn`t as rigid as Muslim home teaching that logically (from the Muslim perspective) stresses Islam values over western ones.

What will be taught to those young Muslim minds in the confines of their home is more than reading, writing arithmetic. The concept that Islam offers a higher moral ground than Western cultures will continuously be re-enforced.

And in the case of Muslims, home schooling also represents assimilation avoidance measure that virtually assures that kids will never become part of American society.

Home schooled Muslims may know how to do long division better than their publicly educated peers. But they`re not on their way to becoming American. 

As Roberta Wall, the principal of the Lodi Unified School District`s Independent School and quoted in the Times story, said:

"Their (Muslim) families want them (the students) to retain their culture and not become Americanized."

Under the cover of their homes and completely out of the American mainstream, Muslim children will never re-enter it.

The conundrum then is that if Muslim adults want little to do with America in the first place and also fight to keep their children from becoming American, then why would they bother coming?

Here`s the common sense question I ask myself. If Islam is the most important thing in a Muslim`s life, then why migrate to a Christian country?

I know that if Christianity were paramount to me, I would never consider moving to an Islamic country, even if it were allowed.

And, knowing what we now know about immigrant Muslim resistance to assimilation, what`s in it for the United States?

Since few Muslims will become Americans—at least as we define the concept—then the federal government owes it to us to honest about the ultimate outcome of its immigration policy.

The only thing that can come of leaving our doors open to the Islamic nation is a more balkanized America.

Joe Guzzardi [e-mail him] is the Editor of VDARE.COM Letters to the Editor. In addition, he is an English teacher at the Lodi Adult School and has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.