I am a sixth year teacher who is getting ready to teach Elie Wiesel's Night to freshmen as a part of our standard curriculum. Usually my students have already heard a lot about the Holocaust, and many of them have read The Diary of Anne Frank in middle school. Last year, however, I had a first. I had a Muslim student who refused to read the text because of the current political situation in Israel/Palestine. Because of some things that happened to her family she felt unable to read the text. I first blamed myself for not recognizing that this may be a problem (isn't it interesting how our blind spots become evident sometimes...) and we worked out an alternative assignment.

Going in to this year I would be interested in some ideas about how to teach Night in this context. I know I have several Muslim students again this year and I would like to both teach the texts as well as respect the tension that I imagine they feel.

What I've been thinking about so far is to frame Night in the context of 20th century genocides and discuss other genocides along with it (Pol Pot in Cambodia, The Armenian Genocide, Rawanda, etc.). I may also have the students read another book, or story, in connection to Night that analyzes the current tension in the region (any recommendations?) Any other thoughts would be helpful!

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Reading Holocaust literature is a very intense experience, and in a certain sense it should be upsetting to all students who read it. I guess I don't understand why a Muslim student would have any reason to be exempted from that - is there any reason other than hatred/fear/ignorance would be grounds for refusing to read the book? To me, it seems important not to cater to people's prejudices, but to challenge those prejudices in a positive way.

Admittedly, there is enormous prejudice against Islam in this country (just look at all the repugnant media rumors about Obama being a "crypto-Muslim" - just as throughout European history so many people were denounced as "crypto-Jews," and still are to this day in countries like Poland which I know from personal experience continue to be tortured by hatred/fear/ignorance of Jews)... but the way to confront that hatred/fear/ignorance is by reading important and accessible materials about Islam in class. So, I think it is important that everybody read books like Wiesel's Night (most of all people who think they have something against Jews or who believe that Jews have something against them), and it is also important that people read books that can help them to understand the Muslim experience - if you are looking for an online resource, I can recommend very very very highly a book of Palestinian folktales and fairy tales which has been put online by UC Press:
Speak Bird, Speak Again: Palestinian Arab Folktales, by Ibrahim Muh...

One of my students used this book as the basis for a project in class last semester, and it was a great success in helping all the students in class connect to Palestinian traditions in a way very different from what they get from watching the news:
Palestinian Folk Tales: The Sounds of a People
She is a student of Syrian background, and she included Syrian recipes together with the stories - it was a fantastic project, and I know she really enjoyed choosing stories from the Speak Bird Speak Again book to retell in her own words.
Thanks...This is very insightful. I will definitely check out the links.



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