The "Islamic" at an Islamic School

By: Abiya Ahmed  

In this paper, based on a four-month long ethnography of a San Francisco Bay Area Islamic high school, I examine the “Islamic” at an Islamic school by studying how it affects school policy, the religious studies curriculum, and the school’s self-representation. I also examine how the school’s current practice fares against parental, student, and its own expectations of the “Islamic.” Finally, I explore how the school’s current agency dynamically interacts with these “Islamic” expectations to produce future Muslims. Literature on religious schools generally explores the role of religion at a religious school (Peshkin, 1986; Wagner, 1990; Cristillo, 2008). However, I use Asad’s (1986) conception of Islam as a discursive tradition and Bourdieu’s (1977) schema of doxa, heterodoxy, and orthodoxy to show that the while religion plays a role in the school’s decision-making, the reverse also occurs: the school’s decisions play a role in religion. That is, while the “Islamic” influences the school, the school also negotiates and redefines notions of what can be considered “Islamic”, without compromising Islam for its Muslims. This is significant as it illustrates the interaction of theoretical Islam and Muslim agency, both of which are necessary to understand what makes an Islamic school Islamic.

Religion, Education, Islamic
Religious Community and Socialization
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Abiya Ahmed

PhD Candidate / Research Assistant, Education / Religious Studies, Stanford University, United States
United States