A lesson plan on learning about Islam, based on “A peaceful faith,” an article by Beeta Baghoolizadeh in the October 2005 issue of L.A. Youth.

By Libby Hartigan, Managing Editor

Grades: 6-12
Subjects: Language arts, social studies, religious studies

Overview of lesson plan: Students will learn how Muslim teens are affected by people’s misconceptions about Islam.
Suggested time allowance: 45 min.-1 hr.

Students will learn to see a Muslim teen’s point of view on Islam and how it is portrayed in Western society.

Resources and materials:
— pens, paper
— copies of L.A. Youth October 2005 issue (one per student)
— blackboard or whiteboard

Because of the attack on the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, recent bombings in London, and ongoing conflict in the Middle East, many people connect Islam with terrorism.

Islam, the second largest religion in the world, is estimated to have between .7 and 1.2 billion followers, according to ReligiousTolerance.org. It’s true that some extremist, hate-filled Muslims commit terrorist acts, and they get a lot of media attention. But there is also a much larger, peaceful, moderate group of Muslims. No one person can speak for all Muslims, since Islam has no central authority, in the way that the Pope and the Vatican serve as the leadership of the Roman Catholic church.

1. Discussion. Ask students what they know or have heard about Islam or Muslims. Write some of their impressions on the board.

2. Reading. Ask students to read “A peaceful faith,” an article by Beeta Baghoolizadeh on pages 10-12 in the October 2005 issue of L.A. Youth.

3. Discussion. Have the students share their reactions to Beeta’s experiences. How did they feel about:
—her teacher telling the class that terrorists are Muslim.
—her classmates telling her not to speak up because it might affect her grade.
—she and her parents deciding not to complain about her teacher, since he was going to retire soon.
—another teacher telling her that Islam is a prejudiced religion because non-Muslims are not allowed in the holy city in Saudi Arabia, Makkah.
—some students looked at her differently the day after the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York.
—Muslim friends described their windshields being broken, or getting phone calls telling them to “go back to where you came from.”

Do the students feel that the teachers did the wrong thing? Was Beeta correct in trying to defend her faith? When Islam is attacked or misrepresented, is it fair to expect that Muslims should defend their faith or complain? Was it wrong for other students to judge Beeta after the Sept. 11 attacks—or was it an understandable response? How do students feel about the Muslims who had their windshields broken, or were told to “go back where they came from”?

4. Writing. Ask students to write a letter to Beeta telling her how they feel about her experiences. The letters should include specific references to some of the incidents or feelings that Beeta describes. Writers may describe their own reactions, offer sympathy or criticism, or reflect on what they learned from Beeta’s article. They can give Beeta advice on how they think she should handle criticism of her religion, describe their own impressions or opinions of Islam, and express their view of how they wish the world could be changed in light of terrorist attacks.

Extension exercise:
Arrange for your class to visit a mosque to attend a service, or arrange a meeting with a Muslim youth group to learn about Islam.