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Islam in Public School Libraries Maureen O’Neill School Librarian Baltimore Polytechnic Institute Presentation Overview Purpose & Rationale for the Research Background & Context Methodology Lit Review Research Findings Curriculum Support Question:

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Islam in Public School Libraries

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islam in public school libraries

Islam in Public School Libraries

Maureen O’Neill

School Librarian

Baltimore Polytechnic Institute

presentation overview
Presentation Overview
  • Purpose & Rationale for the Research
  • Background & Context
  • Methodology
  • Lit Review
  • Research Findings
  • Curriculum Support

Which country has the largest population of Muslims?

background context islam 101
Background & Context:Islam 101
  • Monotheistic faith: Judaism & Christianity
  • Comes from Arabic root word “silm” meaning “peace & submission”
  • Submission to God by choice “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256)
background context islam 1016
Background & Context:Islam 101
  • Allah: the Arabic word for God
  • Message of God comes

through the final prophet,

Mohammed (PBUH)

    • Born in Mecca, SA. in 570 CE ~ 600 years after Jesus, peace be upon him.
    • Started the message of Islam when he was 40 years old
    • The message continued for 23 years
    • 13 in Mecca and 10 in Madina
    • Lived for 63 years
    • Died in 632 CE and buried in Madina, SA.
background context islam 1017
Background & Context:Islam 101
  • Mohammad
    • “I was sent to perfect moral


    • Muslims believe in all the previous Prophets:
    • Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Jesus, David, Solomon…
    • 23 Names mentioned in the Quran!
    • Muslims do not distinguish between the prophets – they are all respected Messengers of Allah.
    • Muslims also believe other Holy Books were also revealed by God: Al-Zapoor (Psalms), Al-Tawrah (Torah), Al-Injeel (Gospel)
background context islam 1018
Background & Context:Islam 101
  • Al-Quran
    • Islam’s Holy Book: The word of God
    • Revealed by the angel Gabriel to Mohammad over 23 years
    • Mohammad was illiterate!
    • Quran and Sunnah (sayings of the Prophet) constitute Shariah (Islamic Law)
    • Important to differentiate between cultural interpretations of Islam and Islam itself: ask, “Is this consistent with the core messages & beliefs of Islam?”
background context islam 1019
Background & Context:Islam 101
  • Islamic “Law”
    • A pact between God and his people
    • Not for us to oppress each other
    • God will judge us, not each other
    • i.e. Taliban “law” or Saudi “law” are imperfect civil interpretations of God’s expectations; they will be judged by God in the end
    • Human frailty manifested in all religions
background context islam 10110
Background & Context:Islam 101
  • Muslims
    • Not only Arabs (80% Arabs are not Muslim!)
    • 2nd largest religious group in the world
    • 95% Sunni, 5% Shia (differ by successors of Prophet Mohammad & certain rituals)
background context islam 10111
Background & Context:Islam 101
  • Muslims in America
    • 20% of slaves in America were from Muslim countries
    • Muslim immigration: began c.1875
    • Very difficult to estimate Muslim population in USA: why?
background context islam 10112
Background & Context:Islam 101
  • Resources for Demographic Data
    • U.S. Department of State: Muslim Participation in American Society
    • The Pew Forum: Muslim Americans
    • Hartford Seminary: Faith Communities Today research Project
background context islam 10113
Background & Context:Islam 101
  • Be extremely cautious about quality & sources of internet resources on Islam. For example: Sharing the God of Love with Muslims

Sites Recommended for a Diverse Perspective on Islam &

Religion in America:

  • Islamica Magazine
  • Beliefnet
  • Arab American Students in Public Schools
  • Q-News: The Muslim Magazine
  • The Pluralism Project at Harvard
  • Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton
  • Center for the Study of Religion & American Culture
  • Center for the Study of Religion & Society
  • Welcome to the First Amendment Center Online
  • Hartford Seminary: Center for the Study of Islam
  • U.S. Department of State: Muslim Life in America
  • Center for the Study of American Muslims
background context religion american education
Background & Context:Religion & American Education
  • U.S. Constitution
  • 1st Amendment
    • “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
  • i.e. American schools vs. French schools
background context religion american education15
Background & Context:Religion & American Education
  • History of Religion in America: A history of freedom to practice your own religion, not freedom for others to do so
    • i.e. The Puritans:
      • Nathaniel Ward: Observers of other religions “shall have free liberty to keep away from us, and such as will come to be gone as fast as they can, the sooner the better”
background context religion american education16
Background & Context:Religion & American Education
  • Horace Mann
    • American Public Schools: common democratic experience = nondenominational Christian schools!
    • "The public school, an important socializing institution, became the substitute for the American national church" – Susan Rose, Historian
background context religion american education17
Background & Context:Religion & American Education
  • NY Times: Universal Faith
  • NY Times: A Church-State Solution
  • Lawsuit Over Islamic-Role-Playing in Public Schools
purpose rationale for this study

"I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but inform their discretion."

Purpose & Rationale for This Study
  • Democracy (Jefferson): intelligent discussion & debate requires an educated citizenry
purpose rationale for this study19
Purpose & Rationale for This Study
  • Public Perception of Islam
  • USA Today Article: Muslims Under a Cloud
  • Washington Post: Surge in Anti-Muslim Incidents
  • Backgrounds of Muslim Organizations Under Scrutiny
purpose rationale for this study20
Purpose & Rationale for This Study
  • Qurans Pulled from School Libraries
  • Los Angeles City Schools Pull Copies of Qurans from Shelves
  • NY Times: Other Peoples’ Religions
problems for muslims didn t start with 9 11
Problems for Muslims Didn’t Start with 9/11
  • The Evolution of Islamic Terrorism
  • The Immigration Act of 1965: Intended and Unintended Consequences
review of literature
Review of Literature
  • Islam in Children’s Literature:
    • Al-Hazza, Tami. Arab Children’s Literature: An Update. Book Links, American Library Association, January 2006, p. 11-17.
    • Bradford, Clare. Representing Islam: Female Subjects in Suzanne Fisher Staples's NovelsChildren's Literature Association Quarterly - Volume 32, Number 1, Spring 2007, pp. 47-62
    • Khan, Rukhsana. Muslims in Children's Books.School Library Journal, Sep2006, Vol. 52 Issue 9, p36-37, 2p; (AN 22324187)
    • Maughan, Shannon. Gauging the Gap.Publishers Weekly, 9/8/2003, Vol. 250 Issue 36, p35-37, 3p, 3c; (AN 10779886)
    • Shedd, Carol Johnson. Children's Books on the Middle East (Book Review).Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Apr2001, Vol. 20 Issue 3, p104, 5/6p; (AN 4432874)
slj outstanding international booklist 2007 39
SLJ Outstanding International Booklist 2007 (39)
  • LAIRD, Elizabeth & Sonia Nimr. A Little Piece of Ground. Haymarket. pap. $9.95. ISBN 1-931859-38-8. U.K.Gr 9 Up–Details of life in Israeli-occupied Ramallah are told through the eyes of 12-year-old Karim, whose Palestinian family chafes at being cooped up in its apartment during curfews that last for days. Even playing soccer turns dangerous when an unexpected curfew catches Karim too far from home.
  • ICHIKAWA, Satomi. My Father’s Shop. illus. by author. Kane/Miller. Tr $15.95. ISBN 1-929132-99-9. France.K-Gr 2–In this good-humored book, alive with action rendered in vivid, colorful paintings, Mustafa drapes himself in a rug from his father’s Moroccan rug shop and followed by a rooster, parades through the market. Tourists, enjoying the spectacle, delightedly share how roosters sound when they crow in their respective countries.
  • 2 items out of 39 dealt with Islam
  • Islam is the 2nd largest religion in the world
  • Grounded Theory
    • Emergent & Inductive
    • Begin with observation or collection of data
    • Look for patterns
    • Tentative hypotheses & generation of theory
    • Not contrasting collections by system demographics!
  • Initial area of observation: What are school library holdings on the topic of Islam?
  • Contact school systems individually
  • What decisions would affect a school system’s participation?
  • Public access laws: holdings information!
  • Compare school library holdings with recommendations & reviews
  • Very little is recommended; sparse lit review!
  • Who are the experts in this field?
  • Authors: Are they Muslim? Does it matter?
  • What should librarians and teachers be doing with these books?
fiction themes topics
Fiction dealing with Islam is 10% of the collections: 90% focused on female narratives, 75% deal with war or refugees, & 98% involve non-Western culturesFiction Themes & Topics
research findings patterns
Research Findings/Patterns
  • 60 to 70% of the non-fiction collections are in 297 (religion)
  • 300’s (social sciences) and 900’s (history) constitute 30 to 40% of an “Islam” collection
research findings patterns32
Research Findings/Patterns

300’s & 900’s

  • 95% of titles or keywords included the words “terrorism,” “extremism,” & “fundamentalism”
  • 2 most common countries: Iran & Afghanistan
research findings patterns33
Research Findings/Patterns

Average publication date range:


Not comparing holdings, but noting emergent patterns & asking questions
  • Became about quality & what can be done with the materials
  • Which books/videos appear most often? What is their quality?
  • What topics & themes appear & re-appear? Implications for curriculum?
  • What should we ask when considering books on religion for collection development?

Most common fiction & non-fiction titles:

held in all responding school systems.


Most common non-fiction titles:

held in 80% of responding school systems.


Most common non-fictiontitles:

held in 80% of responding school systems.


Most common fiction titles:

held in 80% of responding school systems.


Most common video:

held in 70% of responding school systems.

curriculum resources
Curriculum Resources
  • History of the Israeli Palestinian Conflict
  • Peace Signs
  • Pieces for Peace Project
curriculum resources41
Curriculum Resources
  • War Stories
  • Cry War
  • Geography Shapes the Nature of War in Iraq
  • Iraq: The Reach of War
curriculum resources42
Curriculum Resources
  • Afghanistan: Land in Crisis
  • Through Afghan Eyes
  • Afghanistan’s Shadowlands
  • Afghan Odyssey
  • The Price of Relief
curriculum resources43
Curriculum Resources
  • Children of War
  • Discovering Peace
  • International Day of Peace
  • 30 Years in Lebanon
curriculum resources44
Curriculum Resources
  • Teachers’ Guide for Haveli
  • Read Aloud Activities
  • Shabanu Study Guide
  • Arts & Culture of Pakistan
  • Through the Eyes of a Refugee

Curriculum Resources

  • Poet Naomi Shihab Nye
  • National Grandparents’ Day

Curriculum Resources

  • Educating for Peace Through Literature
  • Women in Afghanistan
  • Teaching About Refugees
highly recommended
Highly Recommended

Bakhtiar, Laleh. The Sublime Quran. Chicago: Kazi Publications, 2007.

  • New Translation Prompts Debate
  • Homepage: The Sublime Quran
drama structures librarians
Drama Structures & Librarians
  • Neelands, Jonothan. Structuring Drama Work. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2nd edition), 2000.
  • Wilhelm, Jeffrey. Action Strategies for Deepening Comprehension. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2002.
  • Avoid literal simulations at all costs!
collection development resources for librarians
Collection Development Resources for Librarians
  • Evaluating International Children’s Literature
  • 10 Quick Ways to Analyze Children's Books for Racism and Sexism by the Council on Interracial Books for Children
  • Children’s Storybooks on the Arab World
  • Literature for Young People: Islamic Traditions & Muslim Cultures
suggestions for future research
Suggestions for Future Research
  • Follow-up interviews later w/librarians & teachers
  • Compare & contrast Maryland with another state
  • Ask Muslim scholars, educators, & organizations to review books and provide recommendations
  • Survey publishers: What sells where?
  • Implications for curriculum?
  • What should we ask when considering books on religion for collection development?
  • See associated MS Word document