Religions of the Middle East
Pictured above: interior of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. Originally a Greek Orthodox cathedral and then an Ottoman imperial mosque, today it is a museum (Ayasofya Müzesi)
Guidelines for Teaching about Religion in K-12 Public Schools (2010) - Published by the American Academy of Religion, this document recommends guidelines for K-12 educators to follow when teaching about religion in the public school classroom. Part One addresses why it is important to teach about religion; Part Two outlines ways to teach about religion in constitutionally sound ways; Part Three is an overview of approaches to teaching about religion and includes grade-specific examples based on both the Standards for Social Studies (produced by the National Council for the Social Studies) and Standards for the English Language Arts (produced by the National Council for Teachers of English). We encourage all public school educators who teach about world religions to review this document.
It is a common assumption that religion, and specifically Islam, is the singular and most powerful force shaping the societies of North Africa, and West, Central, and South Asia. While we should not underestimate the signfiance of Islam in these societies as both a religious and cultural orientation, it is critical for educators to situate Islam in a larger social and historical context. Islam is one facet of an individual's or community's life, history, and legacy, and not necessarily the most important one. As is the case with Christianity or Judaism, one's identity as a Muslim exists in an ongoing dialgoue with one's race or ethnicity, social class, gender, nationality, and political principles.
The following resources provide educators with accurate information about basic beliefs, doctrines, branches, sects, and schools of religious thought within Islam. The information about Islam made available here is similar to the type of information one would expect to find in introductory texts on Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, or Buddhism.
- The Middle East as a Net Exporter of Religion - Investigate the religious ideas of the ancient people of the Middle East, some of which became core elements of four major religions: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This module is part of the Teaching the Middle East: A Resource for Educators website.
- Islam Fact Sheet (November 2018) - A summary of basic facts about Islam, including a special section for educators on understanding anti-Islamic sentiment. This resource is supplemented by the following visual aids:
- Exploring Muslim Understandings of Islam - In order to understand and produce more accurate and complex information about Islam and Muslim communities, the author of this essay, Ali S. Asani argues that journalists, educators, academics, and Muslim community members must approach the study of religion through a contextual lens. Originally published by the Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies with support from the Social Sciences Research Council.
- Glossary of Terms Related to Islam and Muslim Communities in Inter-Regional Settings - This set of definitions is an attempt to create a contextualized list of important terms relating to Muslims and Islamic societies. Originally published by the Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies with support from the Social Sciences Research Council.
- Islamic Networks Group - Islamic Networks Group (ING) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to counter prejudice and discrimination against American Muslims by teaching about their traditions and contributions in the context of America’s history and cultural diversity, while building relations between American Muslims and other groups. Founded in 1993, ING achieves its mission through education and community engagement.