An Inside Look at the Universal Education Foundation

By Rachel Martin

October 7, 2012 Updated Oct 7, 2012 at 6:22 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Indiana’s NewsCenter takes a look inside the Universal Education Foundation where local Muslims hold their Sunday School classes.

You've probably passed it several times on Goshen Road, but ever wonder what the Universal Education Foundation (UEF) really is?

“UEF is an educational organization that was established about six years ago in Fort Wayne and the goal is to educate Muslims and non-Muslims about Islam,” said Principal Amani Elhefni.

Elhefni says the Muslim community in Fort Wayne established Sunday School over 20 years ago in the basement of the Islamic Center on IPFW’s campus. Because of the growing needs of the Muslim population, UEF was founded in 2005. For three hours every Sunday, 192 kindergarten to high school students go to classes and learn Arabic, Islamic History and lessons from the Quran.

Elhefni says it’s just like ‘regular’ school where the students have multiple classes, gets grades, hold parent-teacher conferences and hold open houses.

“At the end of the year we see who is qualified to go to a higher level and who is not,” she said. “But we also have interfaith activities, we have a women’s reading group, and we have Friday congregation.”

“The kids not only get exposure to the basic fundamentals and principles of Islam and learn the true meaning of what Islam is all about, but also the universal nature of it because it is presented by so many difference kids of difference backgrounds,” said UEF Board President Tariq Akbar.

Akbar says the Muslim community in the greater Fort Wayne area has grown to between 4,000 and 5,000 people. In fact, he says 15 different ethnicities are represented in classes at UEF.

Naima Khan, 17, Senior at Homestead High School says she’s been attending a Sunday School since she was four years old. She lived in Canada before moving to Fort Wayne and says she’s attended UEF for five years. For her, Islam is not just a religion, but a way of life.

“It's just like when you're taking a driver's test you need some sort of manual to live by. The thing is Islam is just like that manual for life,” said Khan.

“I really want the kids to know about their religion and know the truth of it. I want the kids to be part of this society, love this country the way we all do, will fight for it and the same time value their religious beliefs,” said Elhefni.

For students like Naima and 16-year-old Canterbury High School Junior Mohammed Ghazali, that's exactly what UEF has done.

“Definitely it makes me a lot more confident. I mean, if you don't have a solid knowledge basis what are you going to tell other people?” said Ghazali. “So I definitely love the fact that I come here every weekend and learn different things. It's just a great way to expand my knowledge of the religion for sure. You have knowledge to give and that’s just educating the public.”

“This school has helped me by making myself more confident in understanding that I am who I am and it doesn't matter what other people will say about it,” said Khan.

For more information on UEF click on “Universal Education Foundation” under News Links on our homepage.

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