On Friday June 28, 2019, the Centers for Middle Eastern & North African Studies (CMENAS) and Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) hosted an all-day workshop entitled “Islam Across the Globe: from Southeast Asia, to the Middle East and the American Midwest.” Held on the tenth floor of Weiser Hall, the workshop introduced Grade 6-12 teachers to Islam in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the U.S., and offered four State Continuing Education Clock Hours (SCECHs). Experts in the field, as well as members of Michigan’s Muslim community, led the workshop and discussions. U-M co-sponsors included the Global Islamic Studies Center, the African Studies Center, the International Institute, Arab and Muslim American Studies, and the Islamophobia Working Group.

In a pre-workshop survey, teachers reported that they were “especially interested in ways to support students practicing Islam in my own classroom community.” Though it was officially summer, twenty-eight educators, some from as far afield as Kalamazoo and Traverse City, came to the workshop, whose greatest strength, by many accounts, was the diversity of presenters and their enthusiasm to share various information and perspectives. 

The first speaker was Bryon Maxey, a CMENAS alum who spoke about the origins and basic tenets of Islam. One audience member especially appreciated his talk, saying, “I would love to learn an entire semester class from him!” 

Moniek van Rheenen, PhD candidate in linguistic anthropology at U-M, followed with an interactive lecture about Islam and youth culture in Indonesia. “I loved learning about Islam in Southeast Asia,” exclaimed another teacher in response to van Rheenen’s presentation. “That kind of informed anecdotal info is really wonderful.” 

More than 90% of participants plan to integrate into their teaching the content from the workshop’s third presenter, Jaye Starr, who is an aspiring hospital chaplain and active organizer in Ann Arbor’s Muslim community. Starr spoke about the history and practice of Islam in the U.S; she also addressed Islamophobia, its consequences on students and families, and strategies for responses. “I learned a lot in Jaye’s session that can be helpful to my current teaching practices,” wrote a teacher afterwards. “Bringing the information ‘home’ as it were is critical in education.” The teachers also were introduced to an array of cultural and religious artifacts from the three regions, including primers in Islamic faith and practice, Qurans, and prayer rugs. 

To help teach the new information, CMENAS and CSEAS partnered with U-M’s Center for Education Design, Evaluation, and Research (CEDER). Darin Stockdill of CEDER presented strategies for integration across grade levels and subject-matters, to much praise. Stated one educator, “Stockdill made the transfer into the classroom seamless, which is most helpful to teachers.” He and his team also produced for the workshop a 76-page booklet of resources that included lesson plans on all three regions.

For many, the highlight of the day was the last session of the afternoon. According to one teacher, the “various experiences and ages of the panelists made the discussion incredibly interesting.” Members of the local Muslim community Sheikh Abdullah Al-Mahmudi, Hadil Ghoneim, Leenah Safi, and Nur Sarah Shuhaizan shared candidly their experiences and perspectives. “The stories of the panel were powerful,” one educator wrote. “[They] help us understand what they are going through as people.” 

All teachers reported gaining, at the end of the day, insight and confidence in teaching about Islam in each of the three geographic regions. In addition to the wealth of knowledge at the workshop, each teacher took home an extensive bibliography of multi-media resources and two books: Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires, by U-M Professor Juan Cole, and How Does it Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America, by Moustafa Bayoumi.

To learn about similar workshops in the future, please contact the outreach coordinator, Rima Hassouneh, at: rhassoun@umich.edu.