Islamophobia Undermines Religious Freedom

If you don’t teach your students about Islamophobia, someone else will. These resources can help you set the record straight about a major religion that’s currently under attack.


While many Muslim Americans live with fear and unease on a daily basis, the last few weeks have been terrifying for members of this identity group—and for allies who care about civil liberties and religious freedom. The dialogue about Islam and its followers flying across the airwaves and popping up on social media has veered so far from what most people consider rational discourse that many folks in the United States feel like they’re living in an episode of the Twilight Zone. But this is real life. And the suggestion that Muslims should not be allowed to live freely in this country or cross its borders is a real policy proposal being voiced and echoed by real people.

The pain and fear this rhetoric causes for U.S. students is also real. How do we know this? Because Teaching Tolerance has been flooded with requests for resources about how to teach about Islam, Islamophobia and religious extremism. Because the resources we do have on these topics are among the most-visited pages on our website right now. Because the educators who are reaching out to us are worried—for their students and for the future—and they’re looking for ways to shed some light during a dark time. How dark? The New York Times reported yesterday that, in the hours after the San Bernardino shooting in early December, the “top Google search in California with the word ‘Muslims’ in it was ‘kill Muslims.’”

If your students are hearing Islamophobic rhetoric at school, at home or in their communities, it may well leave them feeling confused or frightened. Use these resources to offer facts and perspectives that can help correct misinformation, improve school safety and offer examples of how students across the country have responded in the face of Islamophobia.

What is the Truth About American Muslims?
A publication co-produced by the Interfaith Alliance and the Religious Freedom Project of the First Amendment Center that debunks damaging stereotypes about Muslims in the United States. It also includes a section on religious freedom under the U.S. Constitution. 

Extreme Prejudice
A magazine feature story about why it’s necessary to teach about religious radicalism. The story has an accompanying lesson-based toolkit.

Dressing in Solidarity
A magazine feature story about a school that rallied around its Muslim students after an anti-Muslim hate crime.

Youth United! Enough is Enough
A video feature about a school that lost a student to an anti-Muslim hate crime and how, after the tragedy, his classmates took action to establish a community-wide culture of respect, love and understanding. (Great for sharing with kids!)

Religious Diversity in the Classroom: Fostering a Culture of Respect
A webinar co-produced by TT and the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding about how to make your classroom a safe place to learn for students of all religious and nonreligious beliefs.

Debunking Stereotypes About Muslims and Islam
A classroom lesson in which students learn about Muslims in the United States and explore how religions are similar and unique.

Confronting Students’ Islamophobia
A blog post about a teacher’s reaction when her students resisted meeting a Muslim children’s book author.

Don’t Look Away From Garissa
A blog post about an Islamic extremist attack on a Kenyan university and the implications for students and teachers in the United States when only the negative stories about Islam make it into the news.

van der Valk is the managing editor for Teaching Tolerance.

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