Lesson Plan: Unity in Diversity
Exploring Islam in the United States
Activities and Procedures
On the reproducible “Wall of Fame: Personalities” you will find a list of notable historical, literary, political, and cultural figures, all of whom happen to be Muslim. Separate the names, put them all into a hat and ask each student to pick one name. Tell students that they are going to be researching and writing mini-biographies to create a “Wall of Fame” which will highlight the Muslim community’s diversity and contributions to society.
If Internet access is available, students might also write their biographies following a wikipedia format and post them on a group blog, using blogger.com or a similar blogging site. To create a character sketch on their blog, students can:
- write a short biography of the person they researched
- add quotes by or about them
- add excerpts from and/or links to articles written by or about them
- post images, art and lyrics to songs they feel express the personality of this individual
When students are finished, you might have them do oral presentations about the individuals they researched. You may also create an exhibit highlighting their work.
Afterwards, reconvene the class and evaluate their experiences with this assignment. Some reflection questions you might pose are:
- What aspect(s) of their research did they find most fascinating?
- What aspect(s) did they find most surprising?
- Would they use what they now know to dispel myths and misinformation about Muslims on an individual as well as on a collective, large-scale basis? If yes, how?
- Have students take Changethestory.net’s “Millionaire Quiz.” It tests students’ knowledge of Muslims on everything from demographic information to cultural and artistic contributions, and would provide an interesting launching pad for group discussions or further research.
- Ask students to view the PBS documentary Prince Among Slaves which examines the roots of Islam in America. This PBS documentary tells the story of Abdul Rahman, an African Muslim prince. In 1788, the year Abdul Rahman was sold into slavery, his father controlled a country larger than the United States at the time. Yet, once captured and sold, Rahman would struggle and toil for 40 long years. Through it all, he strove to hold onto his Muslim identity.
Following the movie, divide students into small groups and have them discuss the following questions before reconvening and sharing their findings with the rest of the class:
- Were you previously familiar with the fact that many of the slaves brought to America were Muslim? Does this movie change any prior perceptions you had, especially about African Americans today?
- Were you surprised to learn that people of aristocracy were also amongst those enslaved? Why or why not?
- What was there about the protagonist’s sense of identity that empowered him to stay hopeful and determined? Illustrate with three examples from the movie.
- Many slaves had to take on the names of their owners. In the context of identity, why do you feel the slave-owners practiced this?
- Ask students to answer/ the following questions:
- What religious food and drink restrictions do Muslims have?
- Do you have any foods that you can’t eat for health or religious reasons?
- How do mosque features reflect cultural or ethnic variations among the Muslim community?
- What do they tell you about Muslims in the United States and their identity given the kinds of mosques you see built here?