Muslim School in Minnesota Forges Ahead
By Dr Ghulam M Haniff
St. Cloud, Minnesota
Since the early days of building an Islamic community in the state the most ardent desire of the Muslims was for a school. Eventually, such a school was developed, one with wholesome credentials for the Minnesota Muslims. It embodies all the prerequisites for a diploma to graduate from the state in the necessary subjects. Several others are in various stages of preparation seeking the goal of state certification.
The institution that surfaced is known as Al-Amal School and is located in the suburb of Fridley together with a mosque associated with the Islamic Center of Minnesota (ICM). It is within a short drive from the city of Minneapolis. The school was founded in the early 1990s when Muslims from university campuses began to move to the northern suburbs.
This school has been very much in the news lately due to a number of activities undertaken over the years. It has garnered a lot of publicity for the Muslims over time through its outreach projects. Owing to its association with Islamic Center of Minnesota (ICM) a prominent mosque situated in the same building has attracted considerable publicity.
Some time ago its students decided to engage in community beautification program such as picking-up trash from roads closer to the institution and elsewhere. That created positive image for the Muslims, and a little later on, they adopted a highway to look after it the year round.
For the last several years students have also been participating in a state science competition and although a relatively new school it was applauded for the project undertaken by the community. Though it is a private school it has attracted considerable attention in the metropolitan area of the Twin Cities.
The physical structure was a purpose designed educational institution having served for thirty years as a K-8 school prior to its purchase by the Muslims. The congregation began to expand rapidly in the late 1990s and it was necessary that another larger building, rather than a church, be purchased for the serious educational needs of the growing Muslim community of the time.
Once the school was bought one of the larger rooms was turned into a musallah (prayer room) for the regular prayers, and the rest of the building began to be used as an educational institution. The main objective of the Muslim community was the education of the next generation while the prayers and worship services could be learned through the established format. Most of those present at that time heartily endorsed the idea.
According to the Prophet we must “seek knowledge even if we have to go to China” for it. The beloved words from the days of the Prophet came in handy and were quoted by several people in attendance at the meeting at that time.
For the past six or seven years Al-Amal School has been regularly participating in the High School Science Competition organized by the schools in Minnesota. This year it was no exception and the students of Al-Amal School vigorously prepared for it. The regional completion for the Central Minnesota was held at St. Cloud State University, the largest institution of higher education in the area. When the students from Al-Amal showed up they constituted fully 50 of the teams presenting in the science fair. At this particular event other schools brought 22 percent of the teams and the Muslim schools alone brought 11 percent the teams although it is only one school.
The Muslim students won 91 of the awards including 24 awards called “premium” which entitles students to go to the State Finals to be held in about two weeks. This is a testimony to the strength of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at Al-Amal School.
Altogether the Muslim participation in the gathering constituted fully 11 teams they represented 50 percents of the paper presented. If Al-Amal School had not participated in the Central Minnesota Regional Science Fair there would have been only one Muslim student from some other school. The Al-Amal School brought in fully 115 Muslims to the Fair.
Owing to good preparation with emphasis on similar activities all the graduates of Al-Amal have gone on to college, most of them at the University of Minnesota. They have chosen as their major field of study either one of the scientific disciplines, engineering or information technology.
The school has begun to make an impact on the local community as well as on the state. Since its inception it has presented a positive image of the Muslims. It is amazing that even one school can make a difference, perhaps, a huge difference.
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