Located on 1501 Germantown Ave., the Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy is a Muslim-based school for kindergarteners through 12th graders. Members of the faculty, such as Principal Abdur Rahman, teach Muslim values each day. Rahman believes that many Americans stereotype Muslims as terrorists. However, he attempts to shed that stereotype.
“We’re always talking about the good qualities of a Muslim and we condemn any terrorist activity,” says Rahman.
“It says in the Qur’an [the religious text of Islam] very clearly that ‘to take the life of another person is as if you took the life of an entire world. To save a life is like you saved the whole world.’”
According to Rahman and office manager Hanan Mustafa the children feel more comfortable in this school environment as opposed to a regular public school because they are surrounded by their own ethnicity.
“Everbody’s dressed the same where it doesn’t make them feel like they’re the outcast,” says Mustafa. “Everybody’s in a blue scarf and a white undergarment, so no one feels like ‘Oh, they’re staring at me.’”
All of the students are Muslim except for one Catholic. Every faculty member is Muslim, although Rahman says the school has had non-Muslim staff members in the past.
Despite tough economic times, Rahman plans to open a new addition to the Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy, named as an important Islamic mosque in Jerusalem, by creating a seven-story building by 2012. He says that the current building will be just an elementary school whereas the new building will hold the middle school and high school with new facilities like a gymnasium, computer lab, science lab and a swimming pool.
The Al-Aqsa Academy currently consists of 283 students. Jaleel Uq Dah, a student in 10th grade, says that being in a small school has its benefits.
“There are 13 people in my class. So basically it’s like a one-on-one with our teachers,” says Uq Dah.
“I think we learn more since it’s a small class.”
Uq Dah, 16, hopes to go to Temple University and eventually become a pharmacist. Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy has a history of graduating all of its seniors with a 100 percent graduation rate the past three years, and each graduate has gone on to college. With Uq Dah’s desire, and the teachings from the Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy faculty, Uq Dah should be able to attain his goal.