Folsom Muslim academy teaches next generation of leaders tolerance, resilience
FOLSOM – In recent years, Sacramento has seen an influx of new residents. From Bay Area tech workers to refugees fleeing violence and persecution around the world, the capital has become a host city for thousands of people looking for a fresh start.
But all too often migrants trying to find their way in new societies can fall victim to discrimination.
A group is not focused on the negative, but instead is focused on the future by learning tolerance and resilience.
CBS13 spent time with an Islamic community in Folsom where young Muslim Americans are thriving spiritually and academically.
It is the month of Ramadan, the holiest time of the year in Islamic culture. For nearly 2 billion Muslims worldwide, it is a time of reflection through fasting from sunrise to sunset.
At the Folsom Muslim Community, faith, family and community take center stage.
“Just the thought of everybody coming together, praying together, it’s really a good thing to think about,” said Zidan Saladin, a student at Folsom Educational Academy (FEA).
“It’s a time when everyone can come together and bond, not only as a community, but as a big family,” said Jena Monsour, another FEA student.
Jenna and Zidan are high school students at Folsom Educational Academy, the only private Islamic school in Folsom.
They are among the 75,000 Muslims who live in the greater Sacramento area. While the group makes up about 3% of the total population in our region, globally, Muslims are the fastest growing religious group. But with the increase in their number, the reports of discrimination are also increasing.
A report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations found that nearly half of Muslim students surveyed in California reported being bullied because of their religious background. Layli Shirani, a civil rights attorney at CAIR, says they saw the biggest increase in bullying during the pandemic. She also says that, unfortunately, it is during religious holidays when students can become targets.
“Any time their Muslim identity becomes reinforced — it’s an opportunity that can make them more vulnerable,” Shirani said.
That’s why ongoing efforts by CAIR and other Muslim-based groups aim to dispel harmful myths and stereotypes about Muslims and their faith through education and intervention.
At the Folsom Muslim Community, Youth Director Mohamed Mabrouk, a first-generation immigrant, knows all too well the pressure and stress young Muslim students face.
“Many of them are called terrorists, if their names start with Ahmed or Muhammad, just by bullying along these lines, their names are changed for the sake of ridicule,” Mabrouk said.
And it’s not just Muslim boys who are harassed and harassed.
“I’ve had some sisters — believe it or not — not in this community, necessarily, but where their headscarves were pulled for jokes, or for jokes — and so, psychologically, it does a lot for them to be honest,” Mabrouk said. .
It mentors between 150-200 Muslim students – from public and private schools – to be confident leaders and productive members of society, nurturing their Islamic identity.
On this day, students at Folsom Educational Academy were learning about science and reciting the Quran.
This private school combines traditional classes with Islamic teaching for both primary and secondary school students. Its mission goes beyond academic achievement.
“Also teaching them to stand up for themselves and speak up and teach them the skills to be good citizens,” said FEA Director Fatma Elsawaf.
After students complete the 8th grade, many will continue to public high schools. Students we spoke with said Folsom Education Academy has prepared them for whatever comes next.
“So I think my religion shouldn’t judge who I am and I’m pretty much the same person. I’m friendly and I can fit in easily,” Saladin said.
“I’ve basically toughened myself up and MCF and FEA have helped me a lot with that. And patience is a lot bigger than it looks,” Monsour said.
Every student at Folsom Educational Academy speaks Arabic and English.
By the way, the Folsom Muslim Community, along with Folsom Educational Academy, provides religious, educational and social services to the Greater Sacramento area.