Now that the rumor mills are cranking about Barack Hussein Obama, I am reminded that I, too attended a madrasa in South Lebanon when I was eight. My father attended the Boys' madrasa across the street for over a decade, and he enrolled me in the Girls' Madrasa in 1970 so I could learn Arabic. Muslim students attended that madrasa! See this picture from the 19th century of the Boys' madrasa with students lined up in alarming Islamic-looking robes.
Troll visitors occasionally drop in to accuse me of IslamoFascism based on some comment of mine (this usually happens when I object to Israel killing Lebanese; see July 2006). I always explain that while my name, Leila Abu-Saba, makes me sound like a terrorist in the minds of the bigoted, I am actually from a Christian Lebanese family (via my father) whose church is older than the Church of Rome. My American grandfather, a Methodist minister, baptized me himself so I am a Protestant.
Dear non-Arabic-speaking readers: Madrasa means school in Arabic. I attended the Sidon Evangelical School for Girls, founded by American Presbyterian missionaries in the 1860s. My father attended the Gerard Institute across the street, opened a few years later to train boys for vocations, then turned into a college preparatory institute before the 19th century was done.
In my village the school was always referred to as Madrasat Al-Amerikan. The American Madrasa. I was indoctrinated in the rigors of Protestantism and the glories of imperialism, most likely. But I did have Muslim classmates, so if you are terrified of Muslim bogeymen under your bed, ready to overthrow the Republic, you can comfort yourself that I was indeed contaminated with the dread Islamic peril during my half-year in the second grade at the Sidon Evangelical School for Girls.
Yes, I am a fifth columnist for radical Protestant missionaries and madrasa teachers.
Oh, that reminds me - my mother taught in this madrasa! It was 1962, she was a bored housewife in Ain-el-Helweh, and she taught music to the little children at Madrasat al-American. Worse and worse.