Arkansas: Public high school students use art to learn Islamic faith

When does the project begin that will teach students the Christian faith? Right, never. That would be unconstitutional. But this? This is fine, because Muslims are being subjected to harassment and discrimination all over the country, right? Well, “people are very nice. So far I’ve not had a bad experience.” Oops. How inconvenient for the narrative.

“Arkansas high school students use art to learn Islamic faith,” by Dave Perozek, Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 24, 2019:

A high school art project helped students gain a new perspective by connecting them with people of the Islamic faith.

Fayetteville High School students in Ashley Grisso’s advanced placement world history classes worked in groups of two or three. They interviewed Muslims in the community, then told their stories through art.

The students’ work was on display recently at the University of Arkansas’ Kittrell Art Gallery. Each piece of the “Putting a Face on Islam” exhibit was accompanied by a one-page artist statement about the work. Students and their subjects gathered one evening for a reception at the gallery.

“It’s really great to be able to understand a person from a different culture, because you might see stuff on the news and read about stuff, but there’s like, a person right there,” Peter Herman, a Fayetteville High School junior, said to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette….

The high school students met their subjects during an event arranged by Cynthia Smith, assistant director of outreach programs in the university’s department of International Students and Scholars.

This is the third year Grisso has done the project as part of the ARTeacher Fellowship program. The program is organized by the university’s Center for Children and Youth in collaboration with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Walton Arts Center….

Students visited a local mosque and met professors in the university’s Middle Eastern studies program.

“We found out Muslim people are living in our community, hiding in plain sight,” Grisso said. “And there are lots of high school students who are Muslim that the kids didn’t even realize were Muslim.”

Febriyanti Lestari, a doctoral student from Indonesia, was an interviewee. She thanked Grisso for giving people like her a platform to share their life experiences and to get to know the high school students.

“This is an amazing idea,” Lestari said. “I hope she does it every year.”

Lestari, who’s been in America since 2014, said she’s traveled to 27 states, adding she enjoys the opportunity to meet new people.

“People are very nice. So far I’ve not had a bad experience,” she said.

High school students Haley Jackson, Amanda Thomsen and Christina Lim — all of whom were raised as Christians — visited the Northwest Arkansas Islamic Center and guided a discussion with preteen children during Sunday school. Their artwork was paper cut and decorated to resemble a mosque; they drew small pictures within it representing what they had experienced during their visit.

Thomsen said it’s fine to learn about another religion from a textbook, but getting to visit an actual mosque is a more powerful experience.

The group’s artist statement summed up what they’d learned: “We were able to see through the children’s eyes how Muslim principles are applied in their everyday life and how they handle judgments from people that are not familiar with Islam.”…

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