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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Learning Islam: Identity, Education, and Empire

  • Author(s): Afsar, Khalid A.
  • Advisor(s): Nasir, Na’ilah S
  • Grosfoguel, Ramon
  • et al.

Situating education within world-systems analysis and in the longue durée of capitalist history affords a critical view of public schooling and Islamic education in the US. While the American Muslim community copes with the aftermath of 9/11 and the effects of the war on terror, the business of providing Islamic education to young American Muslims and educating them about the larger world they live in remains a challenge. Public schooling represents democracy, the right to free and universal education, and the prospect of social mobility, but it also hides the underlying historical forces of colonialism, capitalism, cultural domination, cultural genocide, and segregation. Yet, unlike many centuries past, Islamic education during the Cold War also served a geopolitical agenda against communism, distorting and defaming the teachings of Islam. Contrasting epistemological and ontological dissimilarities between California public school standards and Islamic education makes visible the tensions and tendencies that arise out of combining the two in a private Islamic school. Centering on a private Islamic school located in the Silicon Valley, and with a view to serving the learning needs of Muslim children in the US post 9/11, this dissertation surveys the fears and hopes of the Muslim community, and the opportunities and challenges of Islamic education that lie ahead. Effectively, the necessity arises in formulating a new vision of Islamic education that prepares young American Muslims to contribute positively to an increasingly militarized, racialized, divided world. Based on the longue durée of Abrahamic faiths, relating modern and Islamic history, Islamic education inside the US must re-conceptualize the understanding of the Qur’an and Islam, so as to develop a spirituality and worldview that prepare young American Muslims to serve the social and political needs of their communities, their country, and the world at large.

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