Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant

Interactive Classroom Experience Sheds Light on Islam

Demarest, NJ: Students from Kathleen Walsh’s world religions class at the Academy of the Holy Angels took a closer look at Islam when their classmate’s mother and grandmother visited the school.

Mrs. Elena Cami and Grandma Zaide Cami provided the students with an interactive learning experience as they fielded questions that covered the Muslim belief in an afterlife to Grandma Cami’s hajj (pilgrimage) to the holy city of Mecca.

Mrs. Cami told the class that she was born and raised in Albania, where she was not permitted her religion due to a communist ban on religious practices and worship. She began to delve into religion as a teen. She explained that the Albanian population is mostly Muslim with a Christian minority. Interaction and intermarriage between members of these two religions are common.
“This is the greatest country,” Mrs. Cami told the class. “You can do anything you want here. Having freedom is one of the greatest things in life. I want my kids to appreciate what they have here.”

One student asked about negative stereotypes that have impacted the Muslim community in the years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“The Muslim religion is peaceful,” Grandma Cami emphasized. She said non-peaceful behavior is very upsetting.

Grandma Cami noted that her pilgrimage to Mecca highlighted the fact that Muslim cultures differ throughout the world. The pointed out that these differences include the way people dress, including whether women cover their hair, and how men and women interact with each other.

Mrs. Cami showed the students an example of the clothing worn by Muslim women who are visiting Mecca. She brought out a long, embroidered, olive-colored tunic with matching pants. Although not every woman must wear this exact outfit, those making the pilgrimage are required to observe a dress code that emphasizes modesty. She explained that women are required to cover their hair, and everyone wears identification, since it is easy to get lost in the crowds.

Grandma Cami commented on the tradition of throwing stones at three pillars in Mecca. The pillars, she said, represent the three times the devil tried to tempt Abraham to defy God’s command to sacrifice his son.

Grandma Cami also demonstrated the tradition of facing East to pray multiple times during the day and evening. She covered her hair and brought out a prayer rug as the students looked on with interest. Her prayers, she said, mention Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.

Walsh later noted that Jesus, Moses, and Abraham are regarded as prophets by Muslims. The names of all three men appear in the Qur’an.

The talk concluded with a discussion of fasting requirements during the holy month of Ramadan. Those who are fasting may not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. Mrs. Cami also provided the class with delectable sweets that are shared when these daily fasting periods end. The sweets are made with dates, which the prophet Muhammad is said to have eaten to break his fasts.

Walsh’s world religions students, all of whom are juniors, learn about a variety of topics throughout the year.

“The class studies Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam. An introductory chapter on the study of world religions sets up a framework and vocabulary for studying religion, and there is a final short chapter on tolerance and inter-religious understanding,” Walsh explained. “I try to have family members of students who practice other religions come in to speak when possible.”

Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious high school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.


Academy of the Holy Angels

315 Hillside Avenue Contact Us & Driving Directions

Demarest, NJ 07627

Phone: 201.768.7822

Contact Us & Driving Directions

Copyright 2017. Academy of the Holy Angels. Privacy Policy.