Contemporary readings of the Muslim Child: Implications for Educational Justice

Year: 2019

Author: Memon, Nadeem

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Over the past two decades research on Muslim learners has emerged as a significant subset within discourses of equity studies in education. Post 9/11 Muslim learners have been subjected to outright discrimination and acts of hate that has shaped and reshaped anti-Muslim racism and Islamophobia studies. Continued migration and settlement of learners from Muslim majority countries has influenced research on language learning, the place of religion in secular spaces, and cultural responsivity of the strengths and needs of Muslims learners.

However, across multiple empirical studies on Muslim learners, two very distinct images of the Muslim child have emerged. The first is an image imposed. This includes the Muslim learner as ‘suspect citizen’ (Mac an Ghaill and Haywood 2017; Chowdhury 2018), anti-western (Hoque 2018; Schlein and Chan 2010), and as an ‘uncivilized’ refugee (Keddie 2018; Collet 2007). The other image is one that is self-articulated that includes ‘grounded religiosity’ (Johns et. al. 2015); civically minded and civil society actors (Johns et. al 2015; Cristillo, 2009); ‘Muslim cool’ (Khabeer 2016); and co-constructing a unique, hybrid identity of what it means to be Muslim (Hoque 2018; Panjwani 2018; Collet 2007).

The response of Muslim learners post 9/11 has been to re-articulate who they are, how they see themselves, how they allow the world to see them, and most importantly, an emergence of the distinctions within the broader categorization of themselves. Whether it is Sudanese Muslim learners in Melbourne (Keddie 2018), Bangladeshi learners in London (Hoque 2017), Pakistanis in New York (Chowdhury 2018) or Somalis in Toronto (Collet 2007), empirical studies have reinforced the complexities of Muslim learner identities, the intersections between culture and religion, the dynmaic and fluid nature of religiosity, and the multiple and hybrid articulations of what it means to be Muslim.

For schools and classrooms committed to equity and social justice, these diverse self-articulations within a context of imposed and assumed identities deserves deliberation. Images of the Muslim child challenge the ways educators create spaces for and are responsive toward the contested and changing lifeworlds of learners. This paper presentation will provide a deeper conceptualization of the two broad images of contemporary Muslim learners and synthesize emerging educational responses.