As the school year begins in Canada (and across many parts of the world), I and other Muslim parents find ourselves once again trying to remember all the things that our kids will need to deal with during the course of the school year. To make things a little easier, I have put together an email template for us to send to our childrens’ principal and teachers, outlining the main issues educators need to be aware of when they have Muslim students in their classrooms. Teachers often appreciate the heads-up in advance, and such an email can be a great resource and starting point for teachers to learn more about their Muslim students’ sensitives and requirements.

Of course, feel free to adjust the template as needed to your own specifications and priorities!

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Hello, Mr/Ms/Mrs _______________!

 

My name is _______________________, and I am the parent of ________________ in your class. As it is the beginning of the school year, I would like to inform you of a few things to be aware of with regards to my child.

Our family is Muslim, and that comes with certain unique needs, requirements, and accommodations that my child will need during the course of the school year.

 

  • Awareness of Islamophobia: As you are undoubtedly aware, Islamophobia has reared its ugly head in Canada (*insert your own country of residence*) many times over the years. Unfortunately, Muslim students in particular have faced Islamophobic bullying from peers as well as discrimination from teachers. We urge you to be aware of how Islamophobia manifests, and how it impacts children in particular. Please see the following resources for some information about this:
  • https://yaqeeninstitute.ca/nour-soubani/what-is-islamophobia-animation
  • https://yaqeeninstitute.ca/infographics/internalized-islamophobia-exploring-the-faith-and-identity-crisis-of-american-muslim-youth-infographic
  • https://yaqeeninstitute.ca/jibran-khokhar/effects-of-islamophobia-on-the-brain-dr-jibran-khokhar-firm-roots
  • Prayer: As a Muslim, my child offers the five daily prayers. During the school year, this means that they will need to do at least one prayer during school hours, and as the days get shorter, will include two prayers during school hours. These don’t take longer than about 5 minutes to perform, and all my child will need is a quiet corner to perform their prayers.
    They will also need to know the direction of the qiblah – i.e the direction they need to face for prayers. They will need to face North, so if you or another teacher could help them find a compass and just check where North is in the place that they are praying, that would be great! They will most likely be able to pray during lunch break, so it shouldn’t interfere with any class time; however, in some cases, they may need to step away for five minutes to do their prayers.
  • Friday prayers: As boys above the age of puberty are required to attend the Friday prayer, please note that I will be withdrawing my son ________ from class for approximately an hour and a half during Friday afternoons from 1:30-3:00pm; after the time change, this will be from 12:30 to 2:00pm.
    As our child’s education continues to be a priority for us, we would appreciate it if we are provided with whatever schoolwork our child has to make up for the missed class time, and it will be completed and submitted appropriately.
  • No music: As part of our faith, we strenuously avoid music with instruments. They could spend that time doing silent reading, volunteering as a buddy in other classrooms, or working on their homework instead.
    For music-related activities in other classes, I would appreciate it if I could be informed ahead of time so that we may brainstorm an alternative for him/her.
  • No national anthem/ pledge of allegiance: My daughter/son will not be standing up during assemblies or any other occasion to sing the national anthem/pledge of allegiance.
  • No Thanksgiving/ Halloween/ Christmas/ Valentine’s Day/ April Fools’/ St. Patrick’s Day/ etc.: As Muslims, we observe the sacred month of Ramadan, and celebrate two holidays a year, called Eid (Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha respectively). While it’s absolutely fine for our child to discuss things such as general values of gratefulness, appreciation, and so on, for something like Thanksgiving or Christmas, I would appreciate it if they are not involved in any such holiday-specific activities or events.
    As well, we are more than happy to provide someone to come to the classroom to discuss Ramadan and Eid in detail.
  • Food restrictions: No gelatin or non-halal meat products, please!
  • Dress code: My daughter wears the hijab, which means that her dress code in general will involve being covered in modest clothing (e.g. long sleeves) – this will be required even for PE classes. Please let me know if at any time swimming will be included in the curriculum, as both Muslim boys and girls will need to be excused from it, due to modesty requirements. We are more than happy to have them replace swimming with another kind of physical activity.
    For boys and girls, modesty is extremely important, and we do not want our sons or daughters in locker room situations where they will be required to undress in front of others, or see others undressed. Please arrange for a private stall for them to get changed in.
  • Sexual education: As Muslims, we provide our own well-developed faith-based and culturally appropriate sexual education. We expect to be informed in advance should discussions on sexuality or sexual education be brought up in the classroom, in order to make an informed decision as to whether or not to allow our child to remain in the class for that discussion or not. This includes any discussions or activities related to Pride week or Pride month.
  • Fasting in Ramadan: This year, Ramadan will begin around the middle of March. Although this is some time away, and we will touch base with you closer to Ramadan itself, please be aware that since our child will be fasting from before dawn to sunset, there will need to be some accommodations made with regards to PE.

 

We are always willing to communicate further regarding our child’s needs and accommodations.

Please do keep in mind that this is specific to our family’s spiritual needs, and there may be other Muslim families who attend the school who may not require the same. Like any other faith group, Muslims are diverse in their spiritual observations. We request that all Muslim families be treated with respect, and be provided with the religious accommodations they have specified.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Regards,

 

_____________________

 

 

Related reading:

Advice To Students Starting A New School Year

Advice To Students Starting A New School Year

Islamophobia In American Public Schools

Islamophobia In American Public Schools

Tips For Managing School And Ramadan

Tips For Managing School And Ramadan

By AKDSEO