This story is part of a Patch series examining the Muslim experience 10 years after the Sept. 11 attacks. Read other stories in the series here.
The students attend a Friday afternoon prayer service followed by a question and answer session with representatives from the center, oftentimes the imam for the day or the center’s president, Ghulam Farooqie.
Islam is one of many religions covered in the high school class, which has been developed and taught by department head Terrance Jozwik for almost 30 years. He said bringing his students to churches, synagogues and mosques gives his students another way to understand their studies.
“I like to bring my students into contact with people who actually believe the religions that we’re studying because it makes it real beyond the textbook,” Jozwik said.
Earlier: Muslims discuss unshaken faith.
Jozwik said since 9/11 he has devoted more time to the Islam unit in order to combat the Islamophobia he says he's noticed since the terrorist attack 10 years ago.
“I certainly deal with the issue of, 'Who were these guys that believed their faith required them to fly planes into buildings?'” Jozwik said. “And, 'Where does Islamic fundamentalism come from?' That I didn’t touch prior to 9/11.”
Jozwik said he discusses with students the religious and political basis from which those terrorist activities derived. He said another thing that is different today, 10 years later, is there is a greater interest in Islam.
“I think there’s a greater interest in learning more about the peoples and cultures of the world, so that we’re not surprised by events when they happen,” Jozwik said. “[In regards to Islam, 9/11] sparked a greater interest in knowing people that we didn’t know in the past.”
Farooqie said the class's visits to the mosque are a very positive thing. People are not afraid of each other if they can meet each other, and break down that barrier.
“People follow the news and they think this is what Islam is, and that is not reality,” Farooqie said.
Jozwik said he teaches his students to come to appreciate the richness and diversity of religions, to know what makes them similar and what makes them different.
“If we don’t have knowledge of that which we fear, if we don’t have people we know and can relate to, then we’re just subjected to what the media portrays them as being,” Jozwik said.
Jozwik said his class is always warmly welcomed at the mosque, and the experience gives his students an important opportunity to appreciate and learn about Islam.
“If we actually have a memory from a field trip of this Muslim speaker who answered their questions well and in an articulate way, and made us laugh and enjoy the learning, then that’s the image of Islam we have in our minds,” Jozwik said.
Farooqie said he hopes the students have a good, positive experience visiting the Islam Community Center of Des Plaines, and become more tolerant of Islam.
Jozwik said he emphasizes how the great majority of Muslims in the world are very much against what the people who flew those planes into buildings did.
“I want students to understand that that’s not the norm in Muslim communities; that’s an exception,” Jozwik said.
Jozwik’s class will visit the mosque next in December.