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Technology-rich, standards-based lessons for upper elementary and middle school
Islam in America



Diversity in the United States extends along many dimensions, including religion. American Muslims are estimated to number between six and seven million. Within that population are individuals of all races and ethnic backgrounds, reflecting the tremendous diversity of the followers of Islam.

Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, varies in belief, style, and practice from one nation or region to another and among subgroups within nation and regions. Yet the majority of U.S. citizens have a simplistic, one-dimensional view of Islam and its followers.

In this lesson, students explore some of the religious and cultural variations within Islam, as well as the relation of Muslims to members of other religious groups. There are five videos for this lesson. A segment on the influx of Somali Muslims into a town in Maine highlights the tensions that can occur when a group of Muslim immigrants settles in a community unfamiliar with Islam. Other videos look at the relation of African-American Muslims to Muslims who immigrate from Asia and Africa; and similarities between Islamic Halal and Jewish Kosher traditions.

Time Allotment: Three to four 45-minute class periods, with additional time for discussion and culminating activities as needed

Subject Matter: Social Studies; English/Language arts; Religion

Learning Objectives
Students will be able to:
  • Appreciate the diversity of religious and cultural traditions in the U.S. and within Islam;
  • Recognize that religious differences are a source of controversy and conflict, as well as growth and change;
  • Understand that any influx of new immigrants changes the culture of a community, and that such changes are not always welcome;
  • Recognize that there is great diversity within the Muslim community, both globally and within the United States;
  • Assess the knowledge and beliefs of non-Muslim members of their community regarding Islam and the Muslim community in America;
  • Design and create graphic presentations to better inform community members about the Muslim community in America.

Behavioral Studies
    Standard 1, Level II, Benchmark 3
      3. Understands that people might feel uncomfortable around other people who dress, talk, or act very differently from themselves.

    Standard 1, Level III, Benchmark 1
      1. Understands that each culture has distinctive patterns of behavior that are usually practiced by most of the people who grow up in it.

    Standard 2, Level II, Benchmark 1
      1. Understands that people often like or dislike other people because of membership in or exclusion from a particular social group.

    Standard 2, Level III, Benchmarks 4, 7-8
      4. Understands that people sometimes react to all members of a group as though they were the same and perceive in their behavior only those qualities that fit preconceptions of the group (i.e., stereotyping), which leads to uncritical judgments. (e.g., showing blind respect for members of some groups and equally blind disrespect for members of other groups)

      7. Understands that there are similarities and differences within groups as well as among groups.

      8. Understands that a large society may be made up of many groups, and these groups may contain many distinctly different subcultures. (e.g., associated with region, ethnic origin, social class, interests, values)

    Standard 4, Level II, Benchmarks 1, 3
      1. Knows that communicating different points of view in a dispute can often help people to find a satisfactory compromise.

      3. Understands that one person's exercise of freedom may conflict with the freedom of others and that rules can help to resolve conflicting freedoms.
Media Components


Somali Muslims in Maine
Muslim Divisions
Exploring Religious America
Halal-Kosher Dining at Dartmouth

Muslims in America
Web Sites:

For teachers:
  • Board and/or chart paper
  • Ideally, a screen on which to project the Web-based clips
  • Handouts of Web resources if computers are not available in the classroom
For students: Prep for Teachers

Prior to teaching the lesson, review all of the Web sites and video segments used in the lesson to make certain that they are appropriate for your students. Bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom, or upload them to an online bookmarking utility such as Download the Acrobat Reader plug-in from to each computer in your classroom. Download the free RealPlayer plug-in from to play the video clips.

Download, print, and copy all of the student organizers listed above for each student in your classroom.

Prerequisite: Before beginning this lesson, be sure to do the Introductory Activity from the "Religion and the First Amendment" lesson with your class.