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A simulation is not an invitation to conversion

Reader comment on item: 'Become a Muslim warrior'

Submitted by Irfan Khawaja (United States), Jul 19, 2002 at 11:30

I'm an apostate Muslim and militant atheist, but I find the uproar over this class pretty silly. How on earth can a *simulation* be an invitation to conversion? The simulation is a matter of role-playing, conversion is a matter of actually affirming a faith in reality. The most ridiculous assumption here is that if a kid pretends to be a Muslim, he or she will necessarily become one. Why not make the reverse assumption? A kid could pretend to be a Muslim and use that experience as a basis for *never* wanting to become one. The role-playing experience is neutral between becoming a Muslim and rejecting Islam. Even being a Muslim in real life doesn't mean you'll stay one, so how can pretending to be one for a few weeks turn you into one?

The reasoning in this article is parallel to reasoning I've criticized elsewhere on this site in a different context. When I was a kid growing up in a Muslim household, we were not allowed to go to our Jewish friends' bar mitzvahs for fear that we would get "contaminated" by Judaism. I used to attend a Jewish "Y" for summer camp, and my parents worried that my weekly participation in the Jewish sabbath ritual on Fridays would do permanent damage to me. Well it didn't. It gave me an understanding of and appreciation for Judaism, but it didn't make me want to convert to Judaism. At best, it made me a convert to challah.

I agree that there is an Islamist 'stealth agenda.' I've seen it in action. But the sort of criticisms presented here are too indiscriminate to deal with it. There are perfectly legitimate non-Islamist pedagogical reasons for wanting kids to engage in role playing about Islam, so long as the same is done for Judaism, Christianity, etc. Pedagogy isn't conversion, so details aside, I don't see the deep problem with this class. And we certainly don't need any more bureaucrats in the classroom dictating pedagogical content.
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