With a goal of better educating Parker students about the Muslim faith and dispelling misconceptions about the religion that has become prevalent in our society, 3rd grade teacher Nadia Pardesi recently teamed up with 7th grade history teacher Anthony Shaker in presenting a Morning Ex entitled Islam 101.
The presenters shared some personal background relative to why they wanted to collaborate on this Morning Ex. Pardesi noted that she was raised in the faith, her father was a prominent Muslim scholar and practiced Islamic law, and she and her family continue the tradition. Shaker offered that he was not a Muslim, but he did identify as an Arab-American. He offered this as a way to explain the common confusion between the terms “Muslim” and “Arab.”
Shaker traditionally covers Islam in his 7th grade history curriculum when leading his students on an examination of world religions. When Pardesi joined Parker’s community of teachers last year, Shaker invited her to speak to students in his class about her religion to give his students the opportunity to better acquaint themselves with the religion and ask questions. The experience proved to be so beneficial that the teachers decided to share this year’s joint presentation in a grander form.
Taking turns at the podium, Pardesi and Shaker led students through a presentation on Islam that included general facts, visually demonstrated the countries with the largest number of Muslims and outlined basic tenets associated with the faith.
Students learned that Islam is the second largest religion in the world with followers that comprise almost 25 percent of the world’s population. Here in the states, they reflect only 1.1 percent of the population, but they are reflected in 15 percent of the city of Chicago’s population and 1.5 percent of our student population at Parker.
In describing the six major beliefs in Islam—One God, Prophets, Books, Angels, Day of Judgment and God’s Predestination—and five common practices—Shahada (declaration of faith), Salat (prayer), Zakat (charity), Sawm (fasting) and Hajj (pilgrimage)—teachers helped connect Islam with Judiasm and Christianity on a timeline of the three major Abrahamic faiths, emphasizing similarities rather than differences at every step.
With the fundamentals established, Pardesi spoke to what it currently means to be Muslim in America and the recent rise of Islamaphobia in our society. Shaker posited some reasons for this increase, including overrepresentation in the media, and provided a number of helpful tips on how all people can be allies to Muslims—or any marginalized or oppressed people in our country as we work together to make the world more just, beautiful and welcoming to all.