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A Little Child Shall Lead Them

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Teaching Ramadan in public schools. (Hat tip: SoCalJustice.)

During the next few weeks, multicultural trainer Afeefa Syeed will bring third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students from a Muslim academy in Herndon, Va., to nearby public schools to share the practices and beliefs of their holiest month, Ramadan.

Syeed and the children will present the call to prayer in Arabic, display prayer rugs and offer tastes of dates. In countless other classrooms across the country, similar efforts will be made to educate students about the time of fasting and spiritual reflection for adherents of the world’s second-largest religion.

Ramadan, which likely will begin Oct. 15, depending on the sighting of the new moon, is making more appearances in public school classrooms, thanks to a series of new teacher training initiatives, an increased fascination with Islam and the assurance that schools, if careful, can educate impressionable children about religion without crossing a constitutional line.

The Council on Islamic Education, a nonprofit organization based in California, plans to release an updated version of its booklet “Muslim Holidays,” which was first published in 1997, for the more than 4,000 teachers nationwide who have used it.

The booklet, which contains lesson plan ideas and historical and cultural background on Ramadan and other Muslim holidays, also outlines the various state regulations governing instruction about religion in public schools and discusses accommodations that schools can make to enable Muslim students to observe the holiday.

Muslim educators note tremendous progress in education about Ramadan and Islam in general in public schools, particularly since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — perpetrated by extremist Muslims — brought Islam into the national spotlight.

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