School Field Trip to a Mosque

RJ: Website’s home page has a video showing a public school field trip to a mosque, where girls were excluded and boys invited to join in prayer. Not cool.

Didn’t they bring the girls back to the women’s section? Males and females must be separate in a mosque as well as in many Hindu temples and old style conservative Greek Orthodox churches (and I suppose in Orthodox synagogues.) What would …be shocking is if they made an exception for the students. Even in a primitive simple makeshift mosque there is a screen or partition with the men in front of the partition and the women behind the partition.

RJ: But would that be an exception for a state-funded public school? It’s just plain inappropriate, up there with going to Catholic mass or participating in a Baptist altar call. Whoever was overseeing the field trip ought to have excused them from this portion. Back to the bus, kids.

It does not make sense to me that the boys were “invited to pray.” Muslim prayer is only conducted in Arabic and has some complicated movements. Only once did I attend a mosque and follow along with a friend from Africa. I did the wudu ritual washing and then I entered the mosque and followed his every move; bowing, kneeling, folding my hands, raising one finger at certain times (to symbolically assert monotheism), turning my head to the right and then to the left. I followed along but of course I could not understand more than a word or two of the Arabic.

I can understand having students who desire to do so watch an explanatory video explaining a religious service and optionally going through some of the motions but I agree that it makes no sense to have them participate in an actual service….

The one exception I can think of is the Hare Krishna who sincerely believe that even if someone imitates them in a spirit of mockery yet that person is being sanctified by such activity as well as any who happen to hear or see even if they do not believe.

Good point! One of the few times I ever prayed during childhood was in public school in the 1950s led by the teachers. Back then it was not illegal and few people seemed to give it a second thought.

I apologize for posting a Wikipedia link but this is probably accurate:

Excerpt: In the United States, public schools are prohibited from sponsoring religious observances such as daily prayer. Prayer itself is not forbidden while at school. Regarding the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, the courts have consistently ruled that students’ expressions of religious views through prayer or otherwise cannot be abridged unless they can be shown to cause substantial disruption in the school.
(end of excerpt)

So, I suppose voluntary participation off the school premises would be O.K. except there should probably be a parental consent form mentioning the activity.

Personally I can’t see the advantage of students actually visiting a mosque or mandir or synagogue or cathedral when they can view videos of all the activities. A well made documentary is far more informative than any field trip. The advantage of a field trip is that it is fun to get away from the classroom and do anything. When I actually participated in an entire Friday mosque prayer service I did not understand anything. It was only when I read about the service and watched documentaries that I really understood.

When I was in 8th grade (prior to Vatican II) our Social Studies teacher mentioned that we would be reading 1 page from the Qur’an. The most religious Catholic boy in the school raised his hand and said that he must be excuse from that activity because his church (in those days) forbid the reading of non-approved religious texts. The irony is that when he grew up he went to Japan and became a Zen Buddhist monk.

As an interesting side note I will mention that IF someone were on a desert island, totally alone, and decided to convert to Islam, they could do so simply by calling two invisible angels as witness and stating “There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is His prophet.”
I actually learned this fascinating fact from Laury Silvers, daughter of television comedian Phil Silvers, who converted to Islam.

One mullah in Indonesia even ruled that an adult male need not be circumcised to convert to Islam. By contrast if a male desired to become Jewish but had lost his sex organ in an accident or been born without one, the conversion would be impossible (except perhaps in Reform Judaism).

There are countless Greek “lives of saints and martyrs” especially from the times that Greeks were “under the Turkish yoke.” Some of those accounts mention incidents where a Greek Christian is in a coffee shop with Muslim friends and jokingly puts their fez cap on his head. The Turks insist that his gesture has now made him a Muslim. When pressured to conform to Islam the Greek refuses and is slain thus becoming a martyr for the faith. Remember that Kemal Ataturk outlawed the fez and head scarf.


I am watching the video right now.

Once I became an adult I thought back to those school prayers in the 1950s and I felt badly for whatever Jewish students were in the public schools.

I remember in 7th grade hearing our home room teacher scold us for using the abbreviation Xmas, saying that we should not call baby Jesus an X. I didn’t give it much thought at the time. I simply conformed to whatever I was told. I assumed it was the right thing to do. When they taught me “The Pledge of Allegiance” I thought they were saying “one nation under God, invisible” and it made perfect sense to me because it was my understanding that God was invisible.

My parents were non-practicing “protestants” who never took me to a church even once. My mother felt guilty and so when I was 4 or 5 I remember her teaching me to kneel by the bed and say “Now I lay me down to sleep…” and I did find somewhat morbid to say “and if I die before I wake.” I guess that was the first time that I thought about dieing but it didn’t really sink in until my teenage years.


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