Gatekeeping Is No Genuine Substitute For Education

Our community is in dire need of a tune up, especially religious leadership. We need people at the helm who truly have the skills to teach, not just regurgitate textual material. I’m not calling for abandoning texts, just that we need folks who can really and truthfully convey the meanings of the texts, amongst many other things, to our community members.

That’s why I’m always disturbed when I hear people say, “such-and-such can’t be translated from the Qur’an” and then proceed to translate what was apparently locked away in Harry Potter’s Chamber of Secrets. In my esteem this is nothing other than such a person disqualifying themselves as a proficient educator. But furthermore, I also see it as part of a fundamental misunderstanding of what translation even means:

from the Latin translatus “carried over”, trans, meaning “across, beyond” and latus “borne” or “carried”.

So the meaning of the Qur’an can indeed be “carried over” to other languages. Will those new translations be independent of the source from which they are translated from? No. But intellectual gatekeeping (a symptom rooted in a vanquished self-esteem and identity more than anything else) will never be a substitute for true education.

American Muslims – Between the Pragmatic and the Progressive

The following quote from Amos Wilson, scholar of black studies, has made me ponder the current outlook on life many American Muslims hold: is it unquestionably our destiny to “progress” forward to a better and brighter future? Like any parent, I most certainly hope so but history, especially if this election cycle is any indication, shows us that life is anything but a sure, steady, and guaranteed progression to a brighter and more prosperous future. One quote of Wilson’s caught my eye:

“The idea that we must necessarily arrive at a point greater than that reached by our ancestors could possibly be an illusion. The idea that somehow according to some great universal principle we are going to be in a better condition than our ancestors is an illusion which often results from not studying history and recognizing that progressions and regressions occur; that integrations and disintegrations occur in history.”1

While generally not regarded as a scholar of education, I do think Wilson’s remarks are worth considering for American Muslims. Specifically, the need for us to consider what are our particular educational needs. This may (and ought to) subdivide again, in that the educations needs of particular aspects of the American Muslim community (suburban Desi vs. urban Blackamerican, for example) will have needs that will vary from segment to segment. My point being, that if we are to have a brighter future, then the American Muslim community will need to produce not only leaders but educators, ones who are adept, cognizant and articulate with American history and how that history will challenge American Muslim hopes and aspirations for a brighter tomorrow.


1. Wilson , Amos N. The Falsification Of Afrikan Consciousness. Brooklyn: Afrikan World Infosystems, 1993.

Trickle Down Edunomics

Everything in America now is business. Education is business. The goal is not to educate and train, but to close the sale. Seal the deal. Students, despite passing exams and standardized tests cannot obtain employment. Youngsters are being propelled into a higher education system that only seeks to drain them of their wealth (what little wealth they have) and saddle them with life-crushing debt for the rest of their lives.

And thus school closing having nothing to do with education but everything to do with money which is why the emphasis is now on standardized test scores. This will ensure that populations who are the least economically viable will suffer the brunt of school closings. The boulder of economic crisis has rolled down hill to crush the Detroits and the Philadelphias of America. And the boulder keeps trickling down.

See the article, Professor: Time to Redefine ‘Data’ for School Closings.

Thinking Islam Anew

Muslims often imagine society’s ills as society-minus-Islam. This results in a reductionist understanding of modernity that often disarms Muslims of the very tools that could help navigate the waters of modern life. They think in Utopian ideologies where the solution is imagined to be society-plus-Islam, where neither the former nor the latter are conceived as entirely different ecologies altogether. For more as well as some thoughts on devotional education regarding Traditional Islam, listen to the podcast below.

A couple of quotes from today’s reading of Postman’s Technopoly that grabbed my attention:

“Will the widespread use of computers in the classroom defeat once and for all the claims of communal speech? Will the computer raise egocentrism to the status of a virtue?”

“A preacher who confines himself to considering how a medium can increase his audience will miss the significant question: In what sense do new media alter what is meant by religion, by church, even by God?”

Extra Reads

Neil Postman’s book, Technopoly, is on the Summer Reading List 2012.

Cordoba Academy.


SunniPath, which now appears to be Qibla.