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By Marcia Lynx Qualey, Engage Minnesota
Several years ago, I would have told you confidently—if haltingly—that I worked in a madrassa. Ana bashtaghal fi madrassa, I would’ve said. I worked there as a mudarissa, a teacher.
Madrassa and mudarissa were two of the first words to drop into my growing Arabic vocabulary. After all, I’d traveled all the way to Cairo, Egypt to take a job teaching pre-K at an international school. The words were useful.
For me, the word madrassa was almost empty of connotations, like escuela or école. When I first learned them, the words had no layers: They were attached to no stories, no sayings. All the word madrassa meant to me was a collection of beige buildings in the desert where I wrangled four-year-olds all day. Read the rest of this entry
By Fedwa Wazwaz and Marcia Lynx Qualey, Engage Minnesota
On April 9, we read Katherine Kersten’s column in the Star Tribune, and the e-mail exchange between Kersten and Asad Zaman, executive director of Tariq ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA), and were compelled to respond.
I (Fedwa) have an eight-year-old daughter. I visited TIZA and decided not to enroll my daughter, choosing instead Al Amal School in Fridley. The primary reason is that I was convinced TIZA is not an Islamic School and does not teach Islamic Education to kids. I pay from my own pocket to put my daughter in Al Amal, the only Islamic school in the Twin Cities.
I (Marcia) have a four-year-old son, enrolled in a private Montessori school in St. Paul. While the school is housed adjacent to a Jewish temple—as TIZA is housed adjacent to a mosque—my son has learned nothing about Judaism by mere contact with the building. The school’s vacations are, as you might imagine, focused around Christian holidays.
Both of us work at the University of Minnesota, a public institution that receives taxpayer money. This school also closes on Christian holidays. Tests and school breaks are planned around Christian holidays to allow Christians time to celebrate. The floating holiday this year was on the Christian Good Friday, right before Christian Easter. There are “holiday parties” around Christmas Day—not, for instance, Ramadan.
However, the University of Minnesota presents itself as a secular university. Read the rest of this entry