Marguerite Alberts, assistant to graphics editor
Over the course of two enrichment periods, Advanced Placement (AP) Government teacher Roel Hinojosa and English 3/4 teacher Julie Goler lectured and held a discussion on Islam and its connection to this year’s Hero Project book, “American Dervish” by Ayad Akhtar.
In the first enrichment, on Wednesday, May 15, Hinojosa and Goler spoke about the five pillars of Islam and the ways in which they can be interpreted.
“The Five Pillars are monotheism, fasting, prayer, charity, and pilgrimage,” Hinojosa said. “Also, we looked at Jihad, which is often called the sixth Pillar.”
During the second enrichment on Wednesday, May 23, the class looked at more progressive and liberal Muslim groups, as opposed to the fundamental groups that are usually depicted in the media. Furthermore, the class discussed how American perceptions affect American Muslims. “We looked at the public reaction to American Muslims since Sept. 11 to see what impact this will have on Muslim life in America,” Hinojosa said. “Will they become more progressive or more conservative? The answer may depend in large part on what non-Muslims in America do.”
While most students only went to one of the enrichments, some went to both.
“The enrichments made me think more about the stances people should have on Muslim-Americans,” senior Arya Boudaie said.
The enrichments were planned specifically to link to the Hero Project, an annual project Goler organizes to celebrate certain books. In fact, these specific enrichments were planned out when Goler first decided on the book for this year: “American Dervish.”
In fact, Hinojosa and Goler spoke about many of the themes from the book in the enrichments.
“American Dervish” is a coming of age story about a boy from the midwest who attempts to stay true to his Islamic traditions, while also dealing with his newfound sexuality.
“I love the book and that it is a coming of age story,” Goler said. “I like that it was colored with the religion and the cultures of Pakistan.”
Goler chose “American Dervish” for a number of reasons, one of which is because the Islamic culture and religion is not a part of the English curriculum.
“We don’t do very much relating to Islam as part of our curriculum here, so this is actually a great way to learn about it through historical fiction,” Goler said.
Both Goler and Hinojosa agree that encouraging students to read “American Dervish” would not only expose them to a great piece of literary fiction, but would also help students better understand Islamic traditions and values.
“Islam is increasingly important in America and around the world, and I want our students to be prepared as American and global citizens,” Hinojosa said.
Furthermore, Goler felt that this year’s Hero Project would be an chance for Muslim students to relate to the characters in the story on a more personal level.
“We have a fairly large population of Muslim students at this school and the literature of their culture is not reflected in the literature in high school,” Goler said. “I feel as if this is an opportunity for kids who come from that background to actually see some of themselves reflected in the characters in the book.”
There are three events planned for the Hero Project: an assembly with the students and teachers who read the book and a lunchtime activity with teachers on June 5 and a parent-teacher book group at the home of sophomore Alex Raahban the next day. Only students who have read the book are welcome to participate in the assembly. Students can obtain copies of the book from the library or from Goler, who is selling copies for $11.