Islamic Education – Not Just For Muslims Anymore [?]

I greatly enjoyed Dr. Sherman Jackson’s keynote address at the 2009 fundraiser for the Quba Institute. In it, he touched on some key, if not entirely new, points about the nature of education as it relates to Muslims. To a greater extent, his talk was focused at Blakcamerican Muslims and specifically the need for us to address the detriment or dystrophy of education in our ranks and religious proclivities. I have a number of thoughts regarding it as well as expounding on them, but that will have to wait for a few moments as I am in the thick of finals. In the meantime, a short article by Stephen Schwartz entitled, “What Johnny Needs to Learn about Islam”. It was published in the Weekly Standard [Volume 015, Issue 12]. The excerpt below followed by a link to the full article. Something to chew on.

“In the past, American textbooks were prone to two great pitfalls: Either they dealt with Islam superficially or they presented it in the manner preferred and promoted by well-funded defenders of Islamic extremism. A hallmark of that latter view is an emphasis on the unity of Islam, which is portrayed as simple, monolithic, and benign. The wide range of belief and practice between Sunni, Shia, and Sufi Islam, to name only the best-known variations, is downplayed, and the problems of Islam, especially violent jihad, are simply left out. Some of the current efforts at revising textbooks successfully avoid these mistakes.” Read the full article here.

8 Comments Islamic Education – Not Just For Muslims Anymore [?]

  1. brnaeem@yahoo.com'Naeem

    AA-

    What are you possibly hoping to benefit from known Islamophobe Schwartz? His description of Muslims demanding that “law and government be guided exclusively by religious sources” as “Radical Muslims” reveals his true nature, if it weren’t already clear from his countless past writings.

    He carelessly flings the term Islamist at anyone who supports the concept of one Ummah. Huh?!

    I’m upset at you for having caused me to lose 15 minutes of my life. 😛

  2. theblog@manrilla.net'Marc

    WAS Naeem.

    I have some small words of advice: n-o-m-o-r-e-r-e-d-b-u-l-l-f-o-r-y-o-u.

    🙂

    Yes, Schwartz is an Islamophobe [though I am loathe to use this word as I feel it is more of an instrument to shut down discussion than it is to open it] – there’s no doubt about it. But I still saw something useful in what he said. Let me quote here again and then I’ll provide a re-reading of what I meant. Schwartz said:

    In the past, American textbooks were prone to two great pitfalls: Either they dealt with Islam superficially or they presented it in the manner preferred and promoted by well-funded defenders of Islamic extremism. A hallmark of that latter view is an emphasis on the unity of Islam, which is portrayed as simple, monolithic, and benign. The wide range of belief and practice between Sunni, Shia, and Sufi Islam, to name only the best-known variations, is downplayed, and the problems of Islam, especially violent jihad, are simply left out. Some of the current efforts at revising textbooks successfully avoid these mistakes.

    And now, what I was thinking:

    In the past, American Muslim education has been prone to two pitfalls: Either it deals with Islam superficially or is presented in a manner preferred by certain, specific groups, as if that group’s understanding were inseperable from Revelation. A hallmark of that latter view is that, while trying to emphasize the unity of Islam, it ignores the complexity and variety of Muslims thought. As a consequence, Islam is often portrayed as simple and monolithic [I don’t really have a problem with “benign” here but I’ll make it paranthetical for the moment]. The wide range of thought, practice, and culture between various Muslim communities throughout time have been downplayed. The problems with this approach is that the very possibilities of Muslim thought and agency are simply left out, if not out right denied. Perhaps some of our current efforts at reviving “tradition” and “Islamic thought” should include methods of avoiding these mistakes.

    How’s that? I hope I have made myself more clear and in no way support Schwartz’s political agenda. But in light of Dr. Jackson’s talk [and he’s not the only one talking about this], speaking to the need for developing American Muslim institutions, both culturally and otherwise, I think there is room for reinterpreting Schwartz’s article. And to paraphrase Dr. Jackson in a past lecture, we must not let labels do all our talking for us. The Prophet [s] was dynamic and adaptive. And as the Qur’an says: “It may happen that you detest something despite it being good for you and you may love something while it is evil for you. And God knows, while you do not.” [Q: 2: 216]

  3. theblog@manrilla.net'Marc

    Thanks Devin, for your words. They represent the intelligent dialog that many of us are calling for [Naeem! That’s not an attack against you]. There is oddly enough, a complementary strain of Muslim thought that seeks to shut down any criticism against Muslims – complementary to those who would label any of us, who would pray five times a day, or decry the consumption of alcohol and so forth, as radical Muslims.

    You got the gist of what I was getting at: simply because it’s Stephen Schwartz doesn’t mean he may not have a valid point. I hope my re-reading of his wording shows that we can take such criticism to heart, while not imbibing the troublesome aspects of his rhetoric. I agree that Schwartz is someone who doesn’t care for Islam very much. My response would be: “So what!”. I still feel that he touches on some issues that are very pertinent to current situations and dilemmas that Muslims are facing at this moment.

    I have one question for you, Devin. Did you mean “Muslim” or “non-Muslim” when you wrote:

    I also have issues with labeling Muslims as Islamophobes.

  4. dls917@gmail.com'Devin

    Imam ‘Ali has reminded us: “do not try to know the truth by people; Know the truth and you will know its people”. I don’t mean to beat up on Naeem, but I think two problems that Muslims in general suffer from is an inability to interact with and respond positively to critical, or skeptical, commentary and a disregard for what is being said in favor of who is saying it.

    I do disagree with some of what Mr. Schwartz has had to say in the past, but what he writes here is very valid. Should we ignore the very real issues he brings up because his name is Stephen Schwartz? I also have issues with labeling Muslims as Islamophobes. It seems contradictory to me. I think it behooves us to reflect upon and respond to such comments instead of trying to shut down legitimate debate by calling people “Islamophobes”. We need more debate, not less, even if it is uncomfortable.

  5. dls917@gmail.com'Devin

    No, Stephen Schwartz is a Muslim which is why I think labeling him an Islamophobe is doubly strange. He just disagrees, sometimes excessively aggressively, with certain forms of Islam which he does not adhere to.

  6. theblog@manrilla.net'Marc

    WAS Naeem.

    Of course, not everything Stephen Schwartz has to say is open to such hermeneutics. Some or even much of what he says is bunk. But I am always looking for ways to glean useful tidbits, even if it comes from someone who normally wouldn’t engage me in dialog. Could the same outcome happen with something Malkin wrote? Less likely, in my opinion, as at least Schwartz seems to have something of a keen mind. I don’t feel the same about Malkin.

  7. brnaeem@yahoo.com'Naeem

    AA- Marc,

    Ahhh…your re-reading of Schwartz is whole ‘nother ballgame! I fully concur with what you wrote, while fully rejecting Schwartz’s buffoonery. I didn’t read your take in Schwartz at all. Instead I read a completely paranoid rant in line with his previous ramblings.

    My bad. 🙂

    I would love to read a piece (by you or anyone else) saying what Schwartz is saying but with a more tempered, mainstream approach. I agree that the current approach to teaching Islam in public schools is lacking, but we surely don’t need to adopt Schwartz’s extreme ideology, which banishes all practicing Muslims to the realm of Islamism.

    Devin, thank you for your thoughts and I agree wholeheartedly on the importance of dialogue. But I must confess that I pick my fights very carefully, choosing to engage those who are open-minded and willing to discuss while passing on those blinded by their incoherent convictions.

    You will agree that there is a world of a difference in discussing with Dr. Esposito his criticisms of the Muslim world and Michelle Malkin her views on Muslims.

    Am I exhibiting “an inability to interact with and respond positively to critical, or skeptical, commentary” when I immediately write off Malkin, Spencer, Schwartz and their ilk (all of whom I consider Islamophobes)?

    I humbly suggest that I am not.

  8. Pingback: Does America Have A Muslim Problem? | Marc Manley — Ronin Imam

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