For Educators

Islam and Terrorism – Procedures For Teachers

PrepPreparing for the lesson
StepsConducting the lesson
ExtensionAdditional Activities


Prep

Media Components

Computer Resources:

  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above.
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running WindowsÆ 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM.
    Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.0 or higher. Download the free Adobe Acrobat reader here:
    http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html.

Bookmarked sites and video resources:

TIP: Prior to teaching, bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson and create a word processing document listing all the links. Preview all Web sites and videos before presenting them to your class.

  • “Religion, War, and Violence” videotape from Religion and Ethics.
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/resources/or_videotapes.html
    Visit the above site for information about obtaining this 90-minute VHS videotape. Note: The following clips from this video are included in this lesson, but the second one can be replaced by the “Holy War” Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly Cover Story below.

    • Perspectives on Religious Extremism. Run time: 5:30. Broadcast after the 1998 terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa by extreme Islamic groups. This clip raises questions about the motives and practices of these groups, and explores what the Koran and Islamic tradition say about violence, jihad, and the encroachment of Western culture.
    • Holy War. Run time: 8:00. An examination of what motivates terrorists like those who attacked on September 11, 2001. Were they motivated by their interpretations of the Koran, or were they following a corrupt form of Islam that is bred among people who are subjected to extreme poverty, little freedom, and long-term violence? Explores what the Islamic tradition really says, and what the challenge is for moderate Muslims who feel their faith has been hijacked by extremists.
  • “What is Islam?” by Semya Hakim. Rethinking Schools: War, Terrorism, and America’s Classrooms. http://www.rethinkingschools.org/special_reports/sept11/16_02/what162.shtml
    This article, written for teachers, addresses facts and misconceptions about Islam.
  • PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: Cover Story — Holy War. September 28, 2001. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week504/cover.html
    see above.
  • PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: Perspectives – Religious Extremism. October 12, 2001 http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week506/perspectives.html
    A conversation about how representative Osama bin Laden’s grievances are of Muslims’ grievances around the world. Also explores the question of whether legitimate causes or concerns have been manipulated by bin Laden and other extremists for their own political and violent ends.
  • PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: Cover Story — Muslims in America http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week602/cover.html
    View the video clip by downloading it in the box in the left-hand column. Runs approximately 8 minutes. Explores how the events of 9/11 have posed continuing challenges for American Muslims, many of whom remain committed to educating other Americans about the true meaning and teachings of Islam. Pays particular attention to a Muslim American man who was at the World Trade Center during the attacks on September 11th.
  • In The Mix: The New Normal — “Dealing With Differences” http://www.pbs.org/inthemix/newnormal/program.html
    Click on “Watch the Video” to view a 25 second clip as an introduction to the transcript students will read. Click on “Read Transcript” at the bottom of the far right column. A Sikh teen and Muslim teens of various backgrounds dispel stereotypes by talking about different aspects of Islam. They discuss how they have been affected by negative stereotyping and explain the differences between them and the extremists.

Related Resources

  • PBS: “Islam: Empire of Faith”
    http://www.pbs.org/empires/islam/
    An excellent collection of historical and cultural materials for use with the video series “Islam: Empire of Faith.” A number of lesson plans are available to help you use the video series and companion Web site in secondary social studies, civics, religion, and language arts classes.
  • PBS Frontline: “Muslims” (2002)
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/muslims/
    A two–hour documentary about the diversity of Islam around the world. “MUSLIMS,” according to the producers, “provides an intimate look at the lives of Muslims in various cultures around the world. Through detailed portraits of people in their daily lives, viewers will experience what it means to be Muslim in places as dissimilar as Nigeria, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Malaysia and the United States.”
  • PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: Feature — Madrasahs. By Roy Mottahedeh. June 21, 2002
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week542/feature.html
    An essay on madrasahs and Islamic education by an Islamic scholar.
  • PBS Wide Angle: Global Classroom Lesson Plan on Religion and Culture
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/wideangle/classroom/lp5.html
    Using the Hindu-Muslim conflict in India as a case study, students investigate violent acts carried out in the name of religious conviction.

Materials:

Teachers will need the following supplies:

  • Board and/or chart paper
  • Ideally a screen on which to project the Web-based video clips
  • Handouts of Web resources if computers are not available in the classroom

Students will need the following supplies:

  • computers with the capacities indicated above
  • notebook or journal
  • pens/pencils
  • dictionaries

Other Prep: Securing speakers

An important component of this lesson is students’ exposure to members and/or leaders from the local Muslim community. For Activity Four, you should invite at least two representatives of Muslim American organizations (religious, social, or cultural) to your class to speak with the students. After completing Activity Two, you may also consider the option of taking students on a field trip to a local mosque in order to supplement what they have learned about Islam.

Contact organizations, individuals, or mosques in advance to secure speakers and/or arrange a field trip. You can find contact information by using the phone book (particularly the “community” directory in the beginning), a directory of places of prayer in the area, and Internet search engines. You should contact these places, describe the project your students are working on, and ask if there are individuals willing to make themselves available as speakers. It would also be helpful to provide speakers with the questions they will be asked to address (see Activity Four).


Steps

Introductory Activity

1. Post the following question for discussion:

What are the reasons given by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda for the attacks against the United States, including those of September 11, 2001?

2. Ask students to brainstorm a list of responses to this question. Track students’ responses on the board. Responses will probably include some reference to religious issues, such as: “they think we’re infidels,” “they want to protect Islam from the West,” “they believe U.S. support for Israel hurts Muslims in Palestine,” etc.

3. Highlight (circle or star) the responses on the board that relate to Islam. Ask students whether they think these arguments are supported by the teachings of Islam and by the average Muslim in the world. Allow time for discussion, and for students to respectfully challenge one another.

4. Ask students to create a working definition of “religious extremism,” and record their responses on chart paper (to be hung in the classroom for the remainder of the lesson). Explain that each activity throughout the lesson will help students better understand what religious extremism is and how it can often lead to violence and terror.

5. Explain to students that they will be viewing a video clip addressing Muslim extremism that was broadcast after the 1998 terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa. Ask if anyone can explain what happened in 1998, where it happened, and who committed the acts of terrorism. You might have to fill in any gaps in students’ knowledge of these events by explaining that the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by terrorists, claiming more than 214 lives and injuring nearly 5,000 (12 of the dead were Americans). Those who planned and carried out the bombings have been connected to Al Qaeda and bin Laden.

6. View the following video clip from the Religion & Ethics videotape “Religion, War, and Violence.”

  • Perspectives on Religious Extremism. Run time: 5:30. Broadcast after extreme Islamic groups attacked U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998. This clip raises questions about the motives and practices of these groups, and explores what the Koran and Islamic tradition say about violence, jihad, and the encroachment of Western culture.Focus for Viewing: Ask students to listen for information regarding two things: (1) the true teachings of Islam, and (2) why extremism is spreading in the Muslim world.

7. Allow time for discussion around the two Focus for Viewing questions.

HOMEWORK:

  • Have students read the following article (distribute hard copies of the article if students do not have computers at home):
      “What is Islam?” by Semya Hakim. Rethinking Schools.http://www.rethinkingschools.org/special_reports/sept11/16_02/what162.shtml
      Preface students’ reading by explaining that this article was written for teachers and that they can disregard the guidelines offered to teachers about classroom activities. Instead, they should focus on how the article addresses various facts and misconceptions about Islam.
  • Task: Have students create a list of any new information about Islam and Muslim culture that they learn from this article. If there is anything included on the list that challenges previous beliefs or stereotypes held by students, they should also include a brief explanation of what their previously held belief or stereotype was.

Learning Activities:

Activity One: Have Muslim extremists hijacked Islam for political purposes?

1. Have students share from their homework any previously-held beliefs or stereotypes that were challenged by Semya Hakim’s article. Allow some time for discussion. Collect students’ homework.

2. View the following video clip from the Religion & Ethics videotape “Religion, War, and Violence”: Holy War. Run time: 8:00. An examination of what motivates terrorists like those who attacked on September 11, 2001. Were they motivated by their interpretations of the Koran, or were they following a corrupt form of Islam that is bred among people who are subjected to extreme poverty, little freedom, and long-term violence? Explores what the Islamic tradition really says, and what the challenge is for moderate Muslims who feel their faith has been hijacked by extremists.

3. Have students partner up to discuss and answer the following questions. One student should record his/her pair’s responses. These responses should be handed in at the end of the exercise.

  • What does the word Islam mean?
  • What is the true meaning of “jihad,” and what has it been used by terrorists to mean?
  • What does the clip suggest can happen to the perspectives of those whose lives revolve almost exclusively around religious teachings and texts? What do you think?
  • All religions have their extremists. According to the clip you viewed, why are many Muslims in the world more susceptible to religious extremism? What other conditions add to this equation?
  • What are some of the main U.S. foreign policies that many Muslims around the world denounce?

4. Bring the class back together. Ask whether students think there are some legitimate reasons for Muslims in parts of the world to be upset — with their own governments or with the United States. Ask what factors make for an easier breeding ground for extremism in areas where Muslims are upset with their own governments or with the United States. (Factors that should be identified: poverty, war, lack of democracy, desperation, lack of hope, authoritarian governments, lack of freedoms, fear of Western values and way of life affecting their culture.) Allow time for discussion.

HOMEWORK (over three nights):
Distribute the Using Surveys and Polls handout before students begin the following assignment:

Prepare a survey (8-10 questions) for your peers and other members of your community regarding their knowledge, perceptions, and possible misconceptions and stereotypes about Islam and Muslims. Refer to the Using Surveys and Polls handout for tips on how to conduct a survey. You may also refer to the article you read for homework on the first night of the lesson, “What is Islam?” for ideas of what to include in your survey. Survey respondents can include classmates, family members, neighbors, teachers, or friends — but be sure to have some variety among your respondents. You should survey at least 10 individuals.

Note: If you are able to arrange for a visit to a local mosque, this would be a good point in the lesson to schedule the field trip (following Activity One). Have students prepare relevant questions for the imam and/or other representatives.


Activity Two: Are the grievances among Muslims in the world legitimate?

1. Separate students into groups of four. Explain that each group will select one of the following topics to address in presentations for the culminating project. There will be time for groups to work on their projects towards the end of the lesson (after Activity Four), but explain that it will be useful for students to keep their topics in mind as they pursue their research over the next few days. The topics are:

  • What can be done by the United States and by other governments to prevent the spread of Muslim extremism in the world? (must include proactive, long-term solutions)
  • What role can American Muslims play in educating fellow Americans and others in the world about the true meaning of Islam? (give concrete examples of things they might do)
  • Should U.S. foreign policy change in response to the fears and demands of many Muslims (extremist and non-extremist) in the world? In what ways?
  • What role can we, as young people, play in raising awareness among other Americans about the struggles that American Muslims have faced since September 11, 2001 and later events elsewhere in the world? How can we alleviate those struggles?

Record each group’s selection.

Note: Move among the groups while they discuss and make their choices, and try to encourage groups to choose topics that have not been selected yet.

2. Remind students that in the previous activity they touched on some of the reasons many Muslims in the world have anger towards their own governments or towards the United States. Ask for a volunteer to mention a few of those grievances.

Today students will explore this subject further, and will think about whether the concerns and grievances of people in the world can be legitimate even if many of the actions taken to address those grievances are illegitimate.

3. Have students read:

    PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: Perspectives -
    Religious Extremism. October 12, 2001

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week506/perspectives.html
    A conversation about how representative Osama bin Laden’s grievances are of Muslims’ grievances around the world. Also explores the question of whether legitimate causes or concerns have been manipulated by bin Laden and other extremists for their own political and violent ends.

4. In their groups of four, ask students to discuss the following questions/ issues. One student in each group should take notes throughout the discussion. These notes will be useful as groups develop their presentations for the culminating activity.

  • What are some of the issues that Osama bin Laden has mentioned as reasons for his violent actions?
  • Are these grievances shared by Muslims in the world? What are they, and are they legitimate grievances?
  • Are bin Laden’s methods accepted by most Muslims in the world?
  • According to Professor Lawrence, what U.S. policies must be rethought in order to seek “peace with justice” in the world?
  • What do you think the U.S. should do to better address the concerns of Muslims around the world?

5. Instruct each group to brainstorm 3-5 new questions that specifically address their final presentation topic. The questions should weave in some of the information that students learned during the present activity. Each group member should add these questions to his/her survey.

Homework: Conduct your survey. Make sure to include the new questions your small group came up with.


Activity Three: What do American Muslims think?

1. Post the following question on the board:

How have Muslim Americans been impacted by September 11, 2001, and its aftermath?

Elicit students’ responses and record them on the board.

2. Explain that students will be viewing a video clip that explores the experiences of one particular Muslim American family post-September 11 and addresses the new challenges to Muslim Americans in general.

3. If possible, project the following Web-based video clip onto a screen in your classroom. Otherwise, have students view it at individual computer stations:

    PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: Cover Story — Muslims in Americahttp://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week602/cover.html
    View the video clip by downloading it from the box in the left-hand column of the page. Runs approximately 8 minutes. Explores how the events of 9/11 have posed continuing challenges for American Muslims, many of whom remain committed to educating other Americans about the true meaning and teachings of Islam. Pays particular attention to a Muslim American man who was at the World Trade Center during the attacks on September 11th.

4. Back in their small groups, have students discuss the following questions. Again, one student should record the discussion. The notes may be helpful to the group as it prepares for the culminating activity.

Questions for discussion:

  • What have been the biggest challenges for American Muslims post-September 11th?
  • How do American Muslims feel about the September 11th attacks and about Muslim extremism in general? What has been their experience since September 11, 2001?
  • Why are many Muslims in America frustrated with how Islam has been portrayed?

5. Have the small groups view the following short video clip and the transcript from:

    In The Mix: The New Normal — “Dealing With Differences”
    http://www.pbs.org/inthemix/newnormal/program.html
    Click on “Watch the Video” to view a 25 second clip as an introduction to the transcript students will read. Click on “Read Transcript” at the bottom of the far right column. A Sikh teen and Muslim teens of various backgrounds dispel stereotypes by talking about different aspects of Islam. They discuss how they have been affected and explain the differences between them and the extremists.

Ask groups to discuss the perspectives voiced by these Muslim and Sikh youth.

  • What are some of the misconceptions they discussed?
  • How do these teenagers feel about these misconceptions and what do they try to set straight in this interview?
  • How do many of them feel about being American?

6. Explain that guest speakers from the Muslim American community will be joining the class for the next activity. Ask each small group to develop questions for the guest speakers about anything thus far in the lesson. The questions should include some that specifically address the Muslim American experience and response. The questions should also relate to each group’s topic for the culminating activity, as the speakers’ responses may help groups develop their positions. Each group hands these questions in.

Note: You should review and approve students’ questions for speakers before returning them the following day.

Homework: Continue with surveys.


Activity Four: Guest speakers

1. Return each group’s questions with any comments or suggestions. Let the groups reassemble and review their questions.

2. Tips on Hosting Guest Speakers and Moderating a Panel Discussion:

  • If possible, arrange with the speakers to come early, so that you can share students’ questions with them before the panel discussion takes place. This gives guests a chance to think about students’ specific questions, and allows time to point out any that they might feel uncomfortable addressing.
  • Post the three additional questions panelists will be asked to address (see below) on the board.
  • Introduce the speakers on the panel, noting their affiliations.
  • Allow each speaker an opportunity to respond to questions and to comment on others’ responses (within reason). The first round of comments should be limited to each speaker’s response to questions, and the next round can include time for speakers to comment on others’ responses.
  • Do not allow any disrespectful remarks among panelists or students, and be prepared to intervene if necessary.
  • Be clear to the panelists and students about time constraints, and ask speakers to keep their responses focused.

3. Introduce the panelists and ask them to respond to one or more of the following questions (to be posted on the board):

    (1) Have Muslim extremists and militants distorted the teachings of Islam in order to “justify” terrorism?

    (2) Are the grievances voiced by Muslim extremists actually legitimate ones felt by many Muslims in the world?

    (3) What has been the experience of Muslim Americans after 9/11, and what are some of the struggles they continue to face?

Students should take notes using the Listening to Guest Speakers handout.

4. A representative from each working group will have a chance to pose that group’s questions to the panelists, directing the appropriate questions to individual panelists. Urge students in all the groups to record each question and its response in the notes section of the Listening to Guest Speakers handout.

5. Students hand in the Listening to Guest Speakers handout. You should return these the following day so that students can use them to prepare for the final presentation.


Culminating Activity/Assessment:

1. Post the following question on the board:

How have your own thoughts or views regarding Islam, Muslim extremism and terrorism changed over the course of this lesson?

Instruct students to record their responses in their notebooks.
Call on volunteers to share their responses, and allow some time for discussion.

2. Explain the nature of the final presentation to students.

Each group of four selects one of the following topics:

  • What can be done by the United States and by other governments to prevent the spread of Muslim extremism in the world? (must include proactive, long-term solutions)
  • What role can American Muslims play in educating fellow Americans and others in the world about the true meaning of Islam? (give concrete examples of things they might do)
  • Should U.S. foreign policy change in response to the fears and demands of many Muslims (extremist and non-extremist) in the world? In what ways?
  • What role can we, as young people, play in raising awareness among other Americans about the struggles that American Muslims have faced since September 11, 2001? How can we alleviate those struggles?

Group presentations should run roughly 8-10 minutes, not including time for Q&A from other groups. Group members should draw on the research they have conducted throughout the lesson, as well as on information they gathered from guest speakers and from survey findings. Group members should share their survey results with one another, analyze the similarities and differences in the responses, and draw conclusions and develop summaries. Each group presentation should also involve a visual component — a poster, chart, map, advertisement, etc.

3. Have students suggest how their performance on this project might be assessed. Track their responses on chart paper. Then share the Rubric for Culminating Project and explain that these are the elements that you will be evaluating students on. Ask the class if any of those that they identified are missing from your rubric. If they are, you might agree to incorporate all or some of them into the rubric.

4. Allow time for groups to work on their presentations. Students might want to use some of this time to conduct additional research, organize and draw conclusions from survey results, prepare visuals, assign roles to each group member etc. Students should also refer back to their group notes from discussions earlier in the lesson. Groups should use the Key Arguments to Be Presented organizer as a way of organizing their thoughts, notes, and arguments for the presentation.

Homework: Work on final presentations, including visuals to be presented.

5. Student presentations

  • Remind students that they will be assessed for both their individual and group efforts in these presentations.
  • As each group presents, the rest of the class should take notes and record any questions they have for the presenters.
  • Allow some time after each presentation for students to ask questions of one another.


Extensions

  • Have students investigate the madrasah schools for children in Pakistan and in other Muslim countries. A good resource to begin with:
  • Have students compare the experiences of Japanese Americans during WWII with that of Muslim and Arab Americans during the War on Terrorism. The following are useful resources:
      Rounding up the “Enemy,” by Chisun Lee. Village Voice, July 31 — August 6, 2002. http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0231/lee.php

      Beyond Blame: Reacting to the Terrorist Attack. Education Development Center.
      https://secure.edc.org/publications/prodView.asp?1479
      A 25-page curriculum for middle and high school students focused on issues of justice and mislaid blame. Lesson 2, “Has the Past Been Just?,” examines parallels between today’s events and the internment of Japanese-Americans in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor.

  • Have students consider whether or not this lesson could be interpreted by some as teaching religion in school. Students could explore the controversy surrounding religion in the public schools, and how often the study of world religions and religious communities is interpreted as religious instruction by critics. This subject ties in nicely with the Religion and Ethics lesson plan on religion and public schools: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/teachers/lp_rps.html
    This lesson explores the controversial issues raised by the First Amendment regarding the role religion should and can play in public schools.