For Educators

Religion and Immigration: Muslims in the United States and Europe – 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 Windows® 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM
  • Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM
  • RealPlayer
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.0 or higher. Download the free Adobe Acrobat reader here: http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html

Bookmarked Sites

RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY Web Sites:

Other Web Sites:

Materials:

Teachers will need the following supplies:

  • Board and/or chart paper
  • Handouts of Web resources if computers are not available in the classroom
  • Copies of the Student Organizers

Steps

Introductory Activities

Introductory Activity A: Religious Diversity in the United States

In this activity, students will explore religious diversity in the United States. They will view the results of a poll conducted for Religion & Ethics Newsweekly and U.S. News and World Report. They will discuss the poll’s findings and examine the religious diversity in their own community.

  1. Provide students with a copy of the following:
  2. After students have read the transcript, discuss the findings of the poll with them. Use the following questions to frame the class discussion:
    • What findings in the poll surprised you most? What surprised you least?
    • According to the poll, how do most Americans view Islam?
    • According to the poll, four out of five Christians say they are tolerant of people of other religious faiths. However, only half of non-Christians view Christians as tolerant. How would you account for this difference in perception?
    • Many Christians believe that America’s religious diversity is a source of strength. However, the poll suggests that this belief is not based on their knowledge of or experience with other religious faiths. What do you think it is based on? Can people be genuinely accepting of another person’s religion if they are unfamiliar with it?
    • According to the poll, geographical separation is one of the reasons for the lack of interaction between Christians and other religious groups. Can you think of additional reasons?
  3. Invite students to consider the religious diversity in the community in which they live. Ask students to identify the different religions that are practiced by people in their community. Encourage them to share with the class the experiences they have had with people of other religious faiths.
  4. Ask the class to consider how religious diversity can unite and divide a country. Distribute Student Organizer 1 and have students write their responses individually.
  5. Discuss the students’ responses with the class. Share the results of the poll in which the majority of Americans report that the country can be both religiously diverse and unified. Ask the students to compare the poll’s results with their own responses.

Introductory Activity B: Religion and Assimilation in the United States

In this activity, students will discuss the role that religion played in the assimilation of European immigrants in the United States. They will then discuss whether it is possible for non-Christian immigrants to follow this pattern of integration.

  1. Provide students with a copy of the following article from the RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY 2005 Viewer’s Guide:

    The Viewer’s Guide may be viewed on-screen, downloaded and saved, or printed out using Acrobat Reader.

  2. Provide students with a transcript of the following RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY program:
  3. Distribute Student Organizer 2 and have students write their responses individually. Discuss the students’ responses with the class.
  4. Discuss with students the central role that religion played in the assimilation of European immigrants in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Explain to students that early immigrants from different European ethnic groups were able to assimilate into American society because they shared a common Judeo-Christian religious identity. Share the following passages with students. They are taken from Will Herberg’s 1955 study entitled Protestant-Catholic-Jew. In these excerpts, Herberg describes how religion paved the way for the assimilation of early European immigrants:

    Of the immigrant who came to this country it was expected that, sooner or later, either in his own person or through his children, he would give up virtually everything he had brought with him from the “old country”–his language, his nationality, his manner of life–and would adopt the ways of his new home. Within broad limits, however, his becoming an American did not involve his abandoning the old religion…Quite the contrary, not only was he expected to retain his old religion, as he was not expected to retain his old language or nationality, but such was the shape of America that it was largely in and through religion that he, or rather his children and grandchildren, found an identifiable place in American life.

    [N]ot to be–that is, not to identify oneself and be identified as-either a Protestant, a Catholic, or a Jew is somehow not to be an American. It may imply being foreign, as is the case when one professes oneself a Buddhist, a Muslim, or anything but a Protestant, Catholic, or Jew, even when one’s Americanness is otherwise beyond question.

  5. Explain to students that Herberg wrote at a time when the majority of immigrants were Christians and Jews. Ask students if it is possible for today’s immigrants who are not Christians nor Jews to fully integrate into American society. Ask students if it is possible today for someone to be both American and non-Christian/Jewish.

Learning Activities:

Activity 1: Muslim Immigrants in the U.S.

In this activity, students will explore how the influx of Muslim immigrants raises questions about American tolerance. They will examine some of the conflicts that have occurred when Muslim immigrants attempt to integrate into American society.

  1. Provide students with transcripts of the following RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY program:
  2. Distribute Student Organizer 3 and have students write their responses individually.
  3. Discuss the issues raised by the programs. Use the following questions to frame the class discussion:
    • Do you think the Muslim immigrants who settled in Georgia and Maine would be treated differently if they settled in more diverse regions on the country?
    • The United States is religiously diverse yet predominately Christian. What challenges do you think this paradox creates?
    • Do you think Americans would view Muslim immigrants more positively if they learned more about Islam?

Activity 2 – Muslim Immigrants in Europe

In this activity, students will explore some of the issues faced by Muslim immigrants in Europe. They will discuss how European countries are responding to the increasing number of Muslim immigrants. They will also examine the immigrants’ struggle to be accepted as part of European society.

  1. Provide students with a transcript of the following RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY program:
  2. Divide the class into groups of two students and distribute Student Organizer 4 to each student. Ask the students to identify the source of each quotation. They should write the person’s name and occupation in the table. Next, ask the students to debate the merits of each side’s viewpoint. One student will make an argument for the immigrant’s perspective while the other student will make an argument for the European’s perspective. Encourage students to use the information in the transcript to support their argument. Ask the students to then switch and present the argument for the other side.
  3. After students have completed the exercise, invite them to share what they have learned with the rest of the class. Ask them which side had the more convincing argument. Inquire whether their opinions of Muslim immigrants in Europe changed as a result of the exercise.
  4. Ask students to listen to the following program on National Public Radio (NPR):

    The program examines the banlieues–impoverished neighborhoods that are home to the majority of Muslim immigrants in France. The banlieues have become a symbol of social segregation where Muslim immigrants face high unemployment, crime, and poverty.

  5. Distribute Student Organizer 5 and ask students to fill in their answers as they listen to the program.

Activity 3: Religious Expression in Public Schools: A Tale of Two Countries

In this activity, students will examine the differing views of the United States and France on the concept of the separation between church and state. They will discover how these differences have shaped each country’s policy on religious expression in public schools.

  1. Begin the lesson with a brief discussion of the role of public schools in integrating immigrants into the culture of their new homeland.
  2. Ask students to describe the guidelines regarding the display of religious attire in American public schools. Write their responses and discuss them with the class.
  3. Distribute Student Organizer 6. After students have completed it, invite them to share their description of the guideline with the class. Discuss the guidelines in more detail. Ask students to identify examples of religious attire that might be acceptable. End the discussion by reiterating that in the United States, public schools may not discriminate against private religious expression by students.
  4. Introduce students to the debate involving the wearing of the hijab (Islamic headscarf) in public schools. Explain to students that many people in France believe this public display of an Islamic identity clashes with the French principle of laïcité-the strict separation between church and state.
  5. Ask students to listen to the following programs on National Public Radio (NPR):
    • France, Religion and Public School (February 3, 2004)
      http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1639011
      The program discusses the law banning religious symbols from French public schools. The law, which has since been enacted, prevents students from wearing religious clothing and accessories in the nation’s public schools.
    • Rethinking France’s Republican Deal, Part 2 (February 19, 2004)
      http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1684335
      The program examines the struggles of a Muslim family in France. It describes the family members’ attempt to bridge the gap between their religious and national identities.
  6. Distribute Student Organizer 7 and have students write their responses individually as they listen to the program. Follow-up with a class discussion of the issues raised in the program.
  7. To help students understand how the French view of the separation of church and state differs from the American, share the following quotation with the class:

    The First Amendment, of course, guarantees the free exercise of religion. At least in the popular imagination, it also erects what Thomas Jefferson famously referred to as “a wall of separation” between church and state. Yet Americans are not free to do absolutely anything they want religiously, and the wall separating church and state resembles a modest picket fence more than the Great Wall of China. From Religious Diversity (April 26, 2002; Episode no. 534)

    Use the analogy of the picket fence and the Great Wall of China to explain to students the difference between the France and the U.S. understanding of the separation between church and state. Explain how the history of each country helps shape its interpretation of secularism. Remind students that freedom from religious oppression was the foundation on which the U.S. was created. Therefore, the separation of church and state was intended to protect the church from the government. Compare this with the creation of the French Republic, which was founded to protect the state from the vast powers of the Catholic Church.


Culminating Activity/Assessment: Finding Solutions

In this activity, students will discuss how the United States and Europe can resolve some of the issues raised by Muslim immigration. They will explore possible solutions for meeting the challenges faced by Muslim immigrants and the native population.

  1. Provide students with a transcript of the following RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY program:

    This program is a good overview of many of the issues raised in this lesson. Ask students to note the solutions and compromises discussed in the program.

  2. Provide students with a copy of the following article from the RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY 2004 Viewer’s Guide:

    In this article, experts and scholars offer commentary and insights on Islam and democracy. Ask students to discuss how Islam can peacefully coexist alongside the values that have sustained democracy in the United States and Europe.

  3. Divide the class into groups of four or five students. Distribute Student Organizer 8 to the students in each group. Ask each group to select one of the issues listed and research possible solutions. Share with students some of the solutions that have been considered or implemented:
    • Open Muslim schools so that students will have the opportunity to practice Islam while getting their education.
    • Create new public school holidays for Muslims.
    • Create an American/European Islam that embraces Western values.
    • The French government has now recognized Islam by creating a Muslim Council that is the equal of the official bodies for Catholics, Protestants, and Jews. The Council addresses issues affecting Muslim citizens and immigrants.
  4. After the groups have completed the assignment, ask them to share their answers with the rest of the class.

Extension Activities:

  • Have students investigate religious pluralism in America. Provide students with a transcript of the following RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY program:
  • Have students examine secularism in European society. Provide students with a transcript of the following RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY program:
    • Religion in Europe (July 13, 2001; Episode no. 446)
      http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week446/cover.html
      This program explores European secularism. It compares the church attendance of Europeans and Americans. It outlines the differences between the French and American expectations of the church.
  • Ask students to research the protests over a Danish newspaper’s publication of satirical cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. Beginning in February 2006, millions of Muslims in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa have staged violent demonstrations in response to the cartoons which they view as blasphemous. While American Muslims are equally offended by the cartoons, they have not reacted with violence. Instead, they have used the controversy as an opportunity to educate Americans about the life and legacy of Mohammad. Have students examine the possible reasons for the different reactions. Ask them to draw upon the issues involving immigration and religion which they have explored in the lesson. The following are useful resources:
    • Reaction in Muslim World to Mohammad Cartoons (February 10, 2006; Episode no. 924)
      http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week924/perspectives.html
      In this RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY program, Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University discusses the reasons why the cartoons ignited the worldwide protests. He calls for Europe and the Islamic world to respect each other’s values.
    • Assimilation, Tolerance Mark U.S. Muslims’ Reaction to Cartoons (February 13, 2006)
      http://www.muslimnews.co.uk/news/news.php?article=10642
      This article argues that the subdued response of American Muslims to the published cartoons is informed by the country’s history of immigration, religious tolerance, and plurality.
  • Have students research the riots involving Muslim youths that occurred in France in September 2005. Students should identify the causes of the riots and the outcome. The following are useful resources:
  • Have students investigate the Muslim immigrant experience in other European countries, such as Holland, Spain, Italy, and Britain. The following are useful resources:
    • An Islamic Journey Inside Europe
      http://www.npr.org/programs/atc/features/2003/feb/europe_muslims/
      This five-part series examine the challenges that Muslim immigrants face in Europe.
    • Euro Islam
      http://www.euro-islam.info/
      This website provides research on Islam and Muslims in Europe and the United States. Its members are scholars and university students from Belgium France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Holland.
    • Muslim dress, school code clash in Brittan (February 9, 2006)
      http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2006-02-09-muslim-britain_x.htm
      This article discusses the court battle involving a British Muslim student who was barred from school for wearing the jilbab, a long, loose gown worn by conservative Muslim women. The student argues that her rights were violated. The school contends that she violated its dress code.