Friday, July 27, 2001

Non-Muslims welcome


New International Academy stresses character, morals

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

[photo] Robert Vinson (left) and John Perrmann put finishing touches on the $4 million International Academy of Cincinnati, being built at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati.
(Dick Swaim photos)
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        WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP — Shabana Shakir-Ahmed wants to make sure her three children go to school with some children who embrace the same cultural, ethnic and moral background as her family.

        And she wants them to be comfortable with the non-Muslim children they play with in their Mason neighborhood. So she is sending them to the International Academy of Cincinnati, built at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati's 19-acre campus off Plantation Road.

        Construction of a $4 million, 42,500-square-foot school containing 21 classrooms, three multi-use labs, an art center, computer lab and music room will be finished this month, in time for the school's Aug. 27 start. The school will offer preschool through second grade this year; plans call for the school to add two grades each year through the eighth grade, Principal Sardar Ahmad Tanveer said.

[photo] Hamza Sultan, 4, watches other little butterflies perform a skit at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati.
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        “I want them to be Muslim-Americans, not just Muslim. I think this provides a good mix of religion and academics,” said Mrs. Shakir-Ahmed, vice president of the school's parent-teacher organization. “I grew up in Chicago and went to a public school. I didn't have peers like me. Sometimes I felt I was different even though I was in homecoming court and the National Honor Society.”

        The addition of a day school has been planned since the mosque opened in 1995, said Dr. Salem Foad, who sits on both the Islamic Center and academy governing boards.

        “From the beginning we envisioned a full-time Islamic school,” Dr. Foad said. “We wanted to have excellence in academic education with a personal touch. We're not just stressing academics. We want to instill character and morals with a religious background so (a child) understands his role is serving God and helping his fellow human beings.”

ABOUT THE SCHOOL
   Name: International Academy of Cincinnati
   Address: 8094 Plantation Drive, West Chester Township
   Tuition: Preschool, $1,400 to $2,500 for two-, three- or five-day program; $2,750 for kindergarten; $5,500 for first and second grade.
   Open house and registration: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 18. Registration closes Aug. 20. Classes begin Aug. 27.
   Phone: 755-0169
        Family involvement is stressed at the school, as is respect, understanding, tolerance and acceptance of people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, Dr. Foad said. Instruction in several languages, including Arabic, German, French and Spanish, will be provided.

        “As Muslims, we believe we have to be actively involved in the community,” Dr. Foad said. “The idea is not to convert anybody but to foster understanding.”

        Mr. Tanveer said children from all ethnic backgrounds and faiths — Muslim, Christian and Jewish — will be welcome. Instruction in Islam will be part of the curriculum, though not required for non-Muslims.

        Yazdana Bakali, whose son will begin his second year of preschool at the academy, said she is looking forward to her daughter entering second grade there.

        “He loved it,” she said of her son. “He gained a lot of confidence. He was a shy kind of guy.”
       



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