Kids Skipping Reading, Writing, And Arithmetic To Memorize The Koran? In America?

The story you’re about to read will blow your mind. Here, in the United States of America, we have children who are literally doing nothing but memorizing the Koran all day long:

“The children, ages 7 to 14, are full-time students, in class 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, even in the summer. But they are not studying math, science or English. Instead, they are memorizing all 6,200 verses in the Koran, a task that usually takes two to three years.

It would hardly be an unusual scene in Pakistan, Afghanistan or elsewhere in the Muslim world, where religious schools devoted to memorization of the Koran and Islamic studies are common. But this class meets in the prayer room of a small mosque in Flushing, Queens, that caters mostly to South Asian immigrants and their children.

Schools like this one at the Muslim Center of New York are rare in the United States, but are emerging, especially among South Asians, as the Muslim American population becomes more established.

…Because the task is so difficult, most of the children at the Muslim Center study only the Koran while they are enrolled in the class. Some parents try to tutor their children in other subjects on the side. But for the most part, it is after the children finish that they work to catch up in other subjects in preparation for going back to regular school.

By not offering instruction in other subjects, the school may be inadvertently running afoul of state law, according to city and state education officials. Private religious schools like the Muslim Center’s program are required to provide “substantially equivalent” instruction to that offered in public schools, they said. But tracking every school-age child who leaves the public school system can be difficult.

…(N)ext year, the school plans to introduce two hours of instruction in math, science, English and social studies, said Mohammad Tariq Sherwani, director of the Muslim Center. The additional classes mean it will take longer for students to finish memorizing. “But it is worth it,” he said.

Students at the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens, for instance, spend the last two hours of their day studying more traditional subjects.

…Mrs. Sherwani confessed that she sometimes questioned whether she was doing the right thing with her son, fretting that Thaha, who would have been entering the sixth grade this year if he had stayed in regular school, does not know his multiplication tables, for example.”

I couldn’t care less if there are kids who are trying to memorize the Koran, or for that matter, any other religious text. However, it is — and should be — illegal for a school to ignore or barely teach reading, writing, and arithmetic during the school year so that their students can spend all day memorizing the Koran. If they want to do it on their own time? Fine. If they want to do it during summer school, when they normally wouldn’t be in school, fine. But, it is unconscionable for the state of New York to stand aside while kids like Thaha spend all day memorizing the Koran when they don’t even know basic math.

These schools that are teaching kids to memorize the Koran with minimal or no coverage of other subjects, during the normal school year, should be immediately and unceremoniously shut down until they’re willing and capable of giving students in their care a full and proper education.

Hat tip to Althouse for the story.

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