Education and Muslim Identity During a Time of Tension explores life inside an Islamic Center and school in present-day America.
Melanie Brooks’ work draws on in-depth discussions with community and school leaders, teachers, parents and students to present thoughtful and contemporary perspectives on many issues central to American-Muslim identities. Particularly poignant are the children’s voices, as they discuss their developing identities and how they navigate the choice of being American, Muslim, or both. The book covers topics ranging from establishing the community and the considerations involved, the management of diversity within the community, and approaches to modern opinions on and experiences of gender and extremism in the western world.
Based on focus groups, interviews and observations collected over a two-year period, this book serves as a fascinating and informative insight into the culture and experiences of modern American Muslims. This is essential reading for students and researchers interested in education, religion, politics, sociology, and most particularly in contemporary Islamic studies.
“Education and Muslim identity during a time of tension: Inside an American Islamic school makes an extraordinary contribution at a critical time. Brooks provides keen insight into how school leaders of an American Islamic school navigate issues of faith, politics, community and values. Educational leadership scholars and practitioners will find this to be an informative and simulating read.” Michelle D. Young, UCEA Executive Director and Professor of Leadership at the University of Virginia
“This book is a timely contribution to an area of educational leadership which is sorely needed to help Americans and other peoples understand that Islam and twenty first century democratic principles are not at odds with one another. The distorted image many Americans have of Islam has long been needed to be corrected. Melanie Brooks has brought us an intimate account of how this cultural refocusing and alignment really work. One can only hope that others will follow her lead.” Fenwick W. English, R. Wendel Eaves Senior Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“Melanie Brooks’ up and close study of the American Islamic Academy, a thick description of the school’s policies and practices, its leadership, and more than anything its progressive interpretation of Islam and the Qur’an, is a must reading for proponents and detractors alike of one of the world’s oldest, most influential, and most misunderstood religions. While not ignoring the doctrinal differences between Islam and other major religions, at the end of the day the most important lesson, according to one of the school’s teachers, is simply to be “good and kind.” But not willing to accept statements like this at face value, Brooks takes the probe deeper, investigating the role and value of conflict in a school that celebrates difference and creative self-expression. Education and Muslim identity during a time of tension is not just a book, albeit a groundbreaking one, about Islam, but about caring and compassionate educational leadership, one that values (and teaches) diversity and the acceptance of our differences, not in a form of passive tolerance but in one of active ‘understanding and respect,’ in the words of one of the Academy’s principals. This a book for every American who cares about the role religion, any religion, can play in making us all more culturally competent citizens of our own country and of the world.” John M. Heffron, Professor of Educational History and Culture and Director, MA Program in Educational Leadership and Societal Change, Soka University of America
“Never has there been a more urgent need for the kind of nuanced, empathic, and careful study of the lived experiences of Muslim youth in an Islamophobic world, than Melanie Brooks’ beautiful new volume Education and Muslim identity during a time of tension: Inside an American Islamic school. Diverse intersectional identities, practices and perspectives such as Muslim-American are being subsumed in global rhetorics of hate speech, none more virulent than the Islamophobic backlash in Trump’s (contemporary) America, and Brooks’ new book shows just how powerful qualitative research can be in answering these dangerous generalisations. Linking school, community, family and society, the remarkable participants in this study have much to teach readers around the globe about school leadership and civic participation that values difference, allyship and compassion—our best strategy against the kind of precarity in which we all find ourselves today. A powerful and important work that should be read widely.” Associate Professor Anne M. Harris, Vice Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow, School of Education, RMIT University, Melbourne Australia
“With an open mind and an inquisitiveness that served her well, Melanie Brooks did in-depth interviews with teachers, students, parents, and community leaders at an American Muslim school. The result is an important and timely study about American Muslim identity. Dr. Brooks gave her subjects the opportunity to be completely candid -- and they were. Their conversations reveal the complexities (and humanity) of Islam's growing presence in America.” Jonathan Curiel, Journalist and author of Islam in America and Al’America: Travels through America’s Arab and Islamic Roots
“Melanie Brooks’ two year journey inside an American Islamic school is important to educational leadership, a field which continues to struggle with expansive conceptual frameworks beyond managerialism. Through the voices of participants, Brooks offers a nuanced vision for school leaders, encompassing humanitarian issues not drown out by tribalism, identity politics, or the xenophobic policies of the current Trump administration. Within this one Islamic school, we read about teachings and leadership which recognize differences, not as contradictions, but as an educationally inclusive reality connecting school with family and society.” Ira Bogotch, Professor of Educational Leadership, Florida Atlantic University
“This book is a thought provoking counter narrative to dominant anti-Muslim discourses, embedded in the lived experiences and perspectives of a school community, seeking to explore how this community strives to define and develop its American Muslim identity.” Saeeda Shah, Reader in Education, Co-Chair Race Equality Action Group, Member of International Strategy Forum, School of Education, University of Leicester
“In this volume, Brooks provides and in-depth look at an American Islamic School. The power of this work comes from how it challenges the anti-Muslim discourse that is all too prevalent today. She pushes educators to wrestle with the complexity of navigating faith, community, politics and education.” George Theoharis, Professor, Teaching and Learning Department, Syracuse University
“This book provides valuable insight into how the leaders and staff of one school live out its mission of academic excellence while helping students develop their identities as both Americans and as Muslims. Readable yet rigorous, this research is especially timely given current anti-Muslim sentiment, and fills a void in our understanding of how religion, schooling, and community work together for the good of students. Helpful for future teachers and leaders, as well as anyone seeking to understand how schools can foster both academic and social learning.” Joanne M. Marshall, Associate Professor and Program Area Head, Educational Leadership, Organizations, and Policy, School of Education, Iowa State University
“A thoughtful narrative that shines a needed light on the faith-based schooling of Muslim American youth.” Terri Watson, Assistant Professor, Department of Leadership and Special Education, The City College of New York
“Our particular historical moment is best with a myriad of concerns, most notably fierce ideological divides between people that seems to be growing. The divides are often due to a lack of understanding and what Stephen Carter calls ‘strategic uses of civility and incivility.’ We see this in issues of citizenship and who belongs and who doesn't. Brooks tackles these issues in addition to highlighting her unique vision for an often denigrated group-the Muslim community. We desperately need counter-narratives to dominant anti-Muslim discourse and Brooks provides insight about these individuals and families and how those of us in education can contest dominant framing around this group.” Noelle W. Arnold, Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement, The Ohio State University
“Melanie Brooks’ book is an important and needed contribution to our understanding of Islamic education in the United States today. Fear of “others” is exacerbated when assumptions are reinforced because of little or false information. Dr. Brooks’ book lifts the veil and gives us an opportunity to look deeply into a much talked about but little understood faith tradition in the United States today.” Michael Kroth, Associate Professor, Leadership and Counseling Faculty, University of Idaho and co-author, Stories of Transformative Learning
“This is a must read book that uniquely captures the voices of Muslim Americans striving to advance their dignity and self-reliance through education. In an era where Islamophobia plays a significant role in shaping race and race relations in the United States, this book is timely in presenting a counterstory to illuminate Muslim Americans as not a single, monolithic population. Instead, the book shows that Muslims have rich histories and practices in the ways they love, respect, and care for humanity. The voices portrayed by Professor Melanie Brooks point to the importance for all educators to reconsider what it means to be culturally responsive to the children of the world's fastest growing religion. Her book also offers a platform for the greater public to consider true social justice in a society that often refuses to see the humanities in which Muslim Americans operate in the face of religious intolerance.” Daniel D. Liou, Assistant Professor, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State University
“Education and Muslim Identity during a Time of Tension: Inside and American Islamic school is an important contribution to scholarship in educational leadership, ethnic and religious studies. Through an in-depth research study, Brooks offers empirical experiences of how school leaders who are nested in the nuanced intersection of school, family and community are committed to support diverse learners in their quest of religious-cultural identity. The book captures insightfully the opportunities and challenges to thrive in an evolving socio-political society.” Gaëtane Jean-Marie, Dean and Richard O. Jacobson Endowed Chair of Leadership in Education, University of Northern Iowa
"This book tells the story of the day-to-day challenges of leading an American Islamic school, set against the backdrop of escalating Islamophobic discourse and violence within the United States. In addition to providing critical insights for those interested in better understanding the nuances of leading a faith-based educational institution, Education and Muslim identity during a time of tension: Inside an American Islamic school pushes readers to reflect on the ways in which political, cultural, and social forces inform the lives and educational experiences of a diverse American Islamic school community seeking to equip students with the skills to successfully navigate intolerance and injustice, through honoring their faith and commitment to community.” Tyson Marsh, Associate Professor of Educational Administration, Seattle University
“Melanie Brooks’ research provides an exceptional illustration of how leaders of an Islamic school navigate the complex interrelationships of school, family, community, and society. Khalid Arar, Associate Professor, Educational Leadership and Higher Education, Kibbutzim College, Israel
“Melanie Brooks’ Education and Muslim Identity During a Time of Tension: Inside an American Islamic School is a story of love, faith, and humor that is a much-needed counter-narrative to the anti-Muslim discourse that has pervaded pop culture since the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. Not since Loukia Sarroub’s, “All American Yemeni Girls: Being Muslim in a Public School” has an education scholar conducted a full-scale ethnography of Muslim school children in the United States. Brooks brings a unique perspective to the project as she hones in on the leadership of the school and the complex nature of their everyday work navigating conflicting values and viewpoints. In addition, Brooks brings to the fore the myriad ways school leaders experience joy, community, and compassion in this unique context designed to develop students that are both entirely American and wholly Muslim.” Katherine Cumings Mansfield, Associate Professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Cultural Foundations, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
“This book gives timely and much needed insights for school leaders related to negotiating inter and intra faith diversity. It is uniquely situated in the field as it breaks from traditional binaries and allows readers to consider how students can be American and Muslin without contradiction. What a wonderful contribution!” Whitney Sherman Newcomb, Professor and Interim Department Chair, Department of Educational Leadership, School of Education, Virginia Commonwealth University