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Islamic Roots of Judaeo-Christian Culture
Submitted by James LePree, Irvington High School

CORE QUESTIONS:

  1. What are the outcomes of religious stereotyping?
  2. What steps can be taken to initiate conflict resolution?

OVERVIEW: Since the disaster of September 11, people of Islam have been subject to religious and racial profiling, have systematically been labeled as terrorists and have suffered psychological and physical harm even to the point of having had to defend their patriotism and their commitment to the United States. This is, in large part, due to a lack of understanding of their religion and the failure, in some sense to understand them as individuals and to grasp the essentials of their history, culture, past and present, and their basic humanity. An essential step in this understanding is to realize that Islam with both its negative and positive aspects has much in common with Judaism and Christianity. A crucial step then, in order to break down stereotypes and to move toward conflict resolution is to recast Islam, if you will, in a more familiar mode by engaging in such a comparative study.

TIME REQUIRED: Three 40 Minute class sessions

This lesson plan can be modified for middle schools by introducing hands on projects which point to similarities and differences between Islam, Christianity and Judaism and using the students themselves as participants. Questions and objectives can be somewhat modified as well.

INTERDISCIPLINARY APPLICATIONS:

    LATIN: Students can compare and contrast Christian, Jewish and Islamic artifacts, particularly coins and pottery. Advanced students can study the impact Arabic Islamic scholars had on the survival of Latin and Greek manuscripts.
    ENGLISH: Influence of Arabic language on European literature. For instance, new studies showing the influence of Arabic and Islamic ideas on Dante’s Inferno.
    MYTHOLOGY:Students can study The Arabian Nights and do comparative studies with Roman, Greek mythology etc. Example would be Sinbad the Sailor and Odysseus.

NEW JERSEY CORE CONTENT STANDARDS: This lesson addresses the following NJ Core Content Curriculum Standards in Social Studies: 6.1.11, 12, 13, 14; 6.3.9, 14; 6.8.16

INSTRUCTIONAL OBJECTIVES:

  1. Students will identify stereotypes in Islam, Judaism and Christianity.
  2. Students will give historical and present examples.
  3. Students will comprehend and summarize information on a given topic from a primary source and a secondary source.
  4. Students will take on roles within a small group to develop and implement a plan to teach a topic.
  5. Students will develop role playing and initiate debates concerning points of view of each religious group.

STRATEGIES:

The teacher will brainstorm with the students. Students can discuss how they feel Christianity, Judaism and Islam are “stereotypic” in nature. The students then should be asked If Islam is violent or if all religions exhibit a certain violent side. Concepts of the Islam Jihad, Christian crusades and Jewish Zealots should be discussed looking for similarities as well as differences. The students will then discuss the nature of violence in Christianity, Judaism and Islam after viewing the following websites.

  1. Islamic Jihad: http://beliefnet.com/story/87/story_8753-1.html
  2. Jewish Sicarii: http://www.jewishgates.org/taland/talmud/commentaries/war.stm
  3. Crusudes or Holy Wars against Islam: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/urban2-5vers.html

The teacher will assign topics for discussion. Topics will be researched and a class period or two can be set aside for discussion.

  1. Contribution of Islam to Western literature (Dante’s Inferno for example) http://dante.ilt.columbia/edu/papers.dai.
  2. Contribution of Islam to Science and technology of Western Europe.
  3. Similarities in Islamic and Greek/Roman and African mythology.
  4. Islamic influence on Italian Renaissance.
  5. Arabic influence on the English language.
  6. Mutual admiration and shared scholarship between Islamic and Christian scholars (12th century in Spain) http://www.soon.org.uk/page15.htm Reconciliation Walk and http://www.kabbalahsociety.org/papers/halevi1.htm.

This unit should be concluded by having the students address the following questions.

  1. What were the stereotypes in Islam, Christianity and Judaism that you discussed at the beginning of this unit?
  2. Has the material in this unit helped to break down those stereotypes?
  3. What information presented in this unit did you find most interesting?
  4. Based on your present knowledge, how can Islamic, Christian and Jewish people benefit from the examples of their ancestors?
  5. Why do you think stereotypes are dangerous?
  6. In your opinion, how can relations between Moslems, Christians and Jews be improved today?

MATERIALS: Students require access to the Internet.

REFERENCES:

Consult websites outlined in lesson plan

ASSESSMENT:

  1. Students can role play, historical debates. Islamic, Christian and Jewish points of view are presented by recreating historical scenario.
  2. Students can be assigned the role of interviewer. They can interview community members or classmates who follow Islamic, Christian or Jewish faith.
  3. Students can view historical movies such as “El Cid” and compare and contrast Christian/Islamic relations in historical records.
  4. Students can contact Christian, Islamic and Jewish organizations, collect materials, return to class and categorize materials based on mutual inclusivity.


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