An alliance is forming in some communities across the country between Muslim American parents and conservative groups over what they see as leftist, woke politicization of America’s schools.
Muslim Americans have increasingly begun showing up at school boards from Minnesota to Virginia to excoriate education officials for embracing woke priorities, including critical race theory, and allowing explicit materials in the classroom.
“We’re hearing from folks in the community that they’re tired of the politicization of the schools their children attend,” said Preya Samsundar, the Republican National Committee’s Midwest communications director. “It’s not just explicit materials in schools, but they’re concerned about [COVID-19] lockdowns, distance learning, the quality of education, woke politics in classrooms, and the achievement.”
For many the fight is personal. Muslim Americans, especially recent immigrants, have long viewed U.S. schools as the key to upward mobility and success. That viewpoint has changed for some in recent years, however.
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Shukri Abdirahman, a Somali-American who ran for Congress this year as a Republican in Minnesota, said the coronavirus pandemic exposed critical flaws within the education system.
“With our children and doing in-person learning, we saw the curriculums and how teachers were responding,” said Abdirahman. “Slowly it became apparent that our children were learning more about gender identity and critical race theory, than they were about math and reading.”
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Abdirahman said she was stirred to action when her six-year-old son was scolded in school for saying “oh God” after falling down in school. Since then, she’s worked to mobilize the Somali American community in support of the Minnesota Parents Alliance.
The group is working to educate and empower parents to push back on progressive policies being adopted by school districts across the state. So far, the effort has paid off.
At a recent school board meeting in Wilmer, Minnesota, nearly a dozen Somali American parents showed up to protest reports of LGBTQ pride flags being flown at K-12 educational institutions. Although the local school district denied such flags were being flown, the presence of so many Somali American parents alongside conservative activists showcased a new coalition.
“Muslim Americans want the same thing as any parent in this country,” said Abdirahman. “The right for their children to get a quality education without being indoctrinated. This shouldn’t be political, but it seems only like conservatives and Republicans agree.”
The alliance between conservative education activists and Muslim Americans has also been on display in Virginia, Missouri, and Michigan.
Muslim and South Asian Americans have increasingly shown up at school board meetings throughout Virginia to oppose critical race theory and policies allowing transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms of the sex they identify as. The latter issue was highlighted last year when a female student was raped by a male student allegedly wearing a skirt at a school in suburban Loudon County.
In Missouri, meanwhile, Bosnian American Muslims have been vocal in opposing the inclusion of sexually explicit material in school libraries. The same issue recently catapulted to national attention at a school board meeting in Dearborn, Michigan.
Muslim Americans, from Dearborn’s large Middle Eastern population, turned out in high numbers to protest the school district’s decision to include LGBTQ books in school libraries. The parents claimed that many of the books were sexually explicit and inappropriate for young children.
“We’re not worried about [LGBT] people,” said a Dearborn parent, who attended the school board meeting. “We’re worried about our children. If they wind up gay at 18, who cares? But the school library shouldn’t be letting 10-year-olds read books that detail sexual acts.”
The appeal of conservative parents’ rights message to some members of the Muslim American community has Republicans hopeful of expanding their party. GOP elected officials in Virginia, Michigan, and Minnesota are working to make inroads with Muslim voters using the issue.
“I am proud to stand with the parents of Dearborn,” said Matthew DePerno, the Republican nominee for Michigan attorney general.” “We must fight against the sexualization of our schools.”