Dawah in the Public Schools?

Dawah in the Public Schools?
Sheila Musaji

In a Nov. 24th article entitled Spreading Islam in American Public Schools   http://www.danielpipes.org/article/2236  Daniel Pipes finds it “ominous” that a Muslim group wants to promote Islam in the public schools.  He goes on to say:  “Another website points to a far deeper agenda, that of da‘wa, or using taxpayer-funded schools to proselytize for Islam. www.DawaNet.com goals are summed up by an article it hosts: “How to Make America an Islamic Nation.” But what concerns us is a page, “Dawa in public schools,” that portrays public schools as “fertile grounds where the seeds of Islam can be sowed inside the hearts of non-Muslim students.”

DawaNet appears to hold a view that it is appropriate to proselytize in public schools, and this idea would not be in agreement with the views of any mainstream Muslim organizations.  This attitude is definitely a minority opinion, and one that I believe most American Muslims would disagree with.  I have searched the net diligently and can find no other Muslim group that holds such views.  In fact, I found just the opposite. 

I personally don’t want any proselytizing for any religion in the public schools.  But, I do want to see education about religions. 

Check out past articles we have published on The American Muslim webiste on the subject of teaching about religion in the public schools: Educating About Islam http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/2003nov_comments.php?id=436_0_23_0_C  , or The Islamic Speakers Bureau http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/2003nov_comments.php?id=307_0_23_0_C

Check out the major groups that do training for educating about Islam:  Islamic Networks Group www.ing.org  or Council on Islamic Education www.cie.org  You will find that all of these stress following first amendment guidelines and maintaining a clear distinction between promoting a religion and educating about a religion.

While I could not find any Islamic websites that agreed in any way with the one example given by Pipes, I found a whole series of articles discussing proselytizing for Christianity in the public schools, some of them by mainstream Christian groups.

- Franklin Graham’s Vision: A Student Evangelist in Every Public School Class - “I want to see at least one child in every class in every public school in America who is trained as a witness for Jesus Christ.”  http://www.baptiststandard.com/postnuke/index.php?module=htmlpages&func=display&pid=1899

- Jerry Falwell’s Vision - I hope I live to see the day, when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!
[America Can Be Saved, (1979)]  http://atheism.about.com/library/glossary/western/bldef_falwelljerry.htm

- Chosen Few School and Prison Ministry -  “The guys go into public schools and do secular music, while talking about overcoming the peer pressure of fitting in. Casey shares about overcoming his high school drug addiction, Brian discusses about going through school with an artificial leg and how it‘s ok to be different, Ashley talks about being on the #1 outdoors TV show, “ShowMe Outdoor Adventures“ and demonstrates his expertise of shooting a bow, and Scott tells kids how music can change your life. The real reason Chosen Few is going into schools is to get the kids to come to a Gospel concert that night in a church.”  http://www.chosen-few.com/default.aspx?pid=2&nid=15

- Teaching Students How to Share Their Faith http://www.rbpstore.org/downloads/fyi/SP04/SP04_SrH_FYI.pdf

- Back to School: Now How Do I Witness? -  “A public school setting is a great place to witness.  I know that it is tough, but it is also very important.  Most people become Christians before they are 21 years of age!  That is High School and College age!” http://christianteens.about.com/library/weekly/aa082500a.htm

- Reach Your Entire Campus With the Gospel http://www.christianitytoday.com/cl/2000/004/2.36.html

- How to Reach Your Campus for Christ - One Student at a Time http://www.christianitytoday.com/cl/2000/004/3.39.html  and a whole series of such articles at http://www.christianitytoday.com/teens/features/witness.html

- Defending Christian Freedoms in the Public Schools http://www.christianlaw.org/defending_schools.html

Worldwide Challenge Magazine - Take Jesus to School - “Some parents help their children organize Bible clubs at their public school. Others simply encourage their children to write or talk in school about the Christian perspective on topics like creationism, abortion, euthanasia or even Christ Himself. Some distribute Bibles and other Christian literature. Whether overtly proclaiming Christ’s love and forgiveness, or by finding unique ways to bring Christ to school, Christian adults can influence the American school system for Christ.”

- Share Jesus in the Public Schools http://www.cefonline.com/content/article.php?art_id=228

- Cultivating Change in Your School http://www.family.org/fofmag/pp/a0031495.cfm

- Public School Students’ Flyer http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/11/32004c.asp
some of them simply

- Bringing God back to public schools http://christianity.about.com/library/weekly/aa082100.htm

Chick Tracks: A Powerful Weapon in the Public Schools From Your Spiritual Arsenal - includes a story about a way to reach students - “Our school newspaper sold ads for various products and services, and did not restrict what could be advertised. I knew that this would be a great witnessing opportunity! I placed an ad in the shape of a coupon, and it included my photograph. It stated that I would give a “free gift” to everyone who redeemed the coupon. All the students would have to do was clip out the ad, recognize me from the picture, and “redeem” it when they handed it to me. The “free gift” was…you guessed it, CHICK TRACTS! The cafeteria during the lunch hour was filled with students reading Chick tracts and receiving the Gospel of Jesus Christ, all without a sermon or church service. Most significant was the fact that I was witnessing to fellow students without being disruptive or violating the laws. Since I was a student and not a state-paid teacher, I had no restrictions on what I could say or what literature I chose to give away.”  http://members.tripod.com/monsterwax/battle.html

- Denver Public Schools Promoting Christianity? http://atheism.about.com/b/a/017280.htm

- FAQ’s on Witnessing http://www.aclj.org/issues/FAQs/list.aspx?l=28

- How to Have Prayers in Public Schools Legally http://www.religioustolerance.org/ps_pra2.htm

- How to Start a Christian Club in a Public School http://www.christianitytoday.com/cl/2000/005/7.55.html

- The Bible and Public Schools http://www.teachaboutthebible.org/bps/bpsfaguide01.htm

- Christianity and Public Education http://www.pastornet.net.au/fwn/2002/sep/art08.html

- Evolution and Creationism in Public Schools http://atheism.about.com/library/decisions/indexes/bldec_CreationismIndex.htm

- Evangelicals Can Include Flyers in School Take Home Packets http://washingtontimes.com/metro/20040701-111828-7598r.htm

The question of where the line is drawn has been discussed

- Religious Expression: What Is Legally Permissable in Public Schools http://www.christiananswers.net/q-wall/wal-g010.html

- The Bible in Public Schools http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/rel_liberty/publicschools/topic_faqs.aspx?topic=bible_in_school

- Prayer at Public School Sports Events http://www.religioustolerance.org/ps_prab.htm

- Prayer in Public Schools http://www.laaclu.org/News/2003/April%2016%20School%20Prayer%20HB.htm 

and I believe that there are a number of Christian groups that are crossing the line between teaching about a religion and promoting a religion, and have a misunderstanding about the separation of church and state.  (see a series of alarming quotes at http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/research_comments.php?id=410_0_23_0_C )