Saturday morning is always a happy day for Hafsah and her younger brother, Shabir. On that day, they meet their peers at an Islamic Saturday School in DAYA Center-Dompet Dhuafa USA. The school always reminds Hafsah of her childhood in Malaysia and her mom, who still lives in the country. Hafsah’s father, a Burmese refugee who had a temporary resettlement in Malaysia, brought his children to the United States about four months ago. For Hafsah, the Saturday School is not only teaching her about Islam and being Muslim in the U.S. but a place that confirms her identity as an American Muslim.
Fatma Saidji shares similar feelings. She and her brother, Muhammad, come to the Saturday School to meet other fellow young American Muslims. As Algerian-American, Fatma wanted to keep her identity. Before moving to Philadelphia, her mom was a doctor in a very busy hospital in Algeria. At the school, Fatma Saidji and Hafsah learn together with their peers who have Indonesian, Moroccan, Burmese, and Malaysian backgrounds.
This friendship is very rare though.
According to The Mosque Studies by Ihsan Bagby, the majority (75%) of masjids (or mosques) in the US are based on and dominated by a few ethnic groups, such as South Asian, African American, and Arab. The masjids were founded by the first generation of American Muslims. As a result, the masjids mostly focus only on the first generation needs and the imams do not speak English. They speak Urdu or Arabic instead. Some Islamic schools at the masjids are affected by this situation too. The study reveals that a significant numbers of young American Muslims do not go to masjids because of this issue.
Islamic Saturday School at DAYA Center-Dompet Dhuafa USA offers a different experience for these young Muslims. The children are invited to a vibrant learning community who teaches them about being a good Muslim in America. They are challenged to prove that Islam and America are compatible so the children can be a good Muslim and a loyal citizen at the same time. They also learn about the legacies of Muslims in America and how can they contribute to the country.