AMINA, a Muslim women’s resource centre, has visited 100 classrooms around Scotland after a Dundee school contacted them concerned that their pupils had a racist view of Islam.
WHEN the children in a Scottish school were asked to write down their thoughts on hearing the word Muslim, their responses were illuminating.
Among them were “terrorist”, “9/11”, “scary” and “curry”.
Collecting the answers, Safa Yousef reads them out to the class and says her mother would approve of the curry reference.
Over two years, the project run by Amina, a Muslim women’s resource centre, has visited 100 classrooms to demystify Islam.
These children are in the second year at Castlemilk High in Glasgow.
Their answers are typical of all the schools visited by project officer Safa and Samina Ansari, the charity’s development officer.
The women are both wearing the traditional hijab.
Safa tells the children the 9/11 terrorists hijacked her religion.
She said: “What they did was nothing to do with Islam. There are dafties in every religion.”
The children laugh when they hear this Muslim woman trot out “dafties” in her Glasgow accent.
She said: “When the children hear us talk to them in a down-to-earth way, they appreciate that we are just like they are.
“We want them to see that we are assertive women with jobs. They see the human side to Islam.
“Even just our presence in the classroom, talking with a Scottish accent, has a positive impact.”
The idea for the project came after a Dundee school contacted Amina, concerned that their pupils had a racist view of Islam.
Safa tells the kids that when she first decided to wear the hijab, her father was concerned.
She said: “A lot of you will think that I wear this because I am oppressed. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It was my choice.”
The children are given photos of women in headscarves, including the Queen and Mother Theresa.
They are asked to put them in two piles – Muslim women and other religions. Broadcaster Lauren Booth, who converted to Islam, is placed in the pile of Muslims and it comes as a shock to the children that the white woman is a convert.
Safa, 24, said: “A lot of them don’t realise they have probably mixed with Muslims, that they come in all nationalities and cover all races.”
They ask the class to tell them the five pillars of Islam.
The children can name each one, even using Arabic terms.
They know the academic side but what the women are trying to do is put a face to the religion.
Safa said: “I tell them how I pray. They may know the textbook answer but there is a difference.
“I tell them I might do it when I am out shopping, that it is my conversation with God.
“It brings me back down, boosts my energy and positivity.”
The children are shocked to hear the women spend less time praying than the pupils do on Facebook.
The children are fascinated and, long after the bell has gone, they are bombarding the women with questions. Many ask what they have been called in the street.
Samina says thugs rounded on her when she was in her car.
They ask the children what proportion of the Scottish population is Muslim and the answers range from 35 per cent to 75 per cent.
They are shocked it is a tiny 1.4 per cent minority.
Safa said: “We want to build bridges to make children see we are not that different.”
At the end, the children seem reluctant to leave.
Robyn, 12, said the women had opened her eyes.