Our Curriculum and Something Called Terrorism
It is not surprising that (some special interests) in America, out of their conceit, arrogance, and self deception, would deem to interfere in the private concerns of the Muslims and their most intimate spiritual rights. This comes out plainly in the words of the Jewish American writer Thomas L. Friedman when he talks about our school curriculums and claims that they are responsible for terrorism.
I have no comments to make, but I would like to put forward some questions:
1. Does it show objectivity to pinpoint one cause that is as remote as can possibly be from what happened and declare it the only cause while ignoring other very real factors?
2. Is not our curriculum the very curriculum under which our government ministers, ambassadors, and professors studied, not to mention the authors of those articles in our newspapers? So what is it that protected them and millions of other students from its effects while those fifteen young men were successfully indoctrinated?
3. How many of those people defined as terrorists graduated from so-called religious schools? A casual perusal of the school registries reveals that a good number of them never completed their education at these schools. Others who completed their education were not majoring in Religious Studies, but were doing other degrees like Medicine or Engineering.
4. Were not the men who were accused of those violent acts in Egypt the children of the Nasser era who were nurtured on the teachings, literature, and culture of Nationalism and Socialism?
5. From which religious schools did those recruits of the violent groups in Algeria graduate? Were they not the children of the Bumedian era who lived under the shadows of Socialism and the remnants of French culture?
6. Is not al-Azhar the leading stronghold of religious learning and the most prestigious of all Islamic universities? What percentage of its graduates fell into those untenable doctrines of violence? How does this compare with the percentages of graduates from other secular universities who adhere to such views?
7. Are schools and religious universities the only venues where ideas are acquired and character formation takes place? Does not the media have a stronger, more pervading, and more widespread influence? How does the time spent sitting in a chair during the academic year compare with the time spent being bombarded by the media in all of its forms, written, audio, and visual? Which has more of an affect on a person’s thought and emotions?
8. What religious curriculum motivated the Kuwaiti writer who now demands that we change our curriculum, who spent the prime of his youth as a defender of the Zifâr Freedom Front, fighting his relatives and his Muslim and Arab brothers for the sake of Leftist principles? What religious syllabus was behind the Leftist youths who caused the explosions in Kuwait in the 1960s, one of the accused being the same age that the Kuwaiti writer would have been at the time?
9. Have not the religious schools and institutes been around for hundreds of years? So where has the terrorism been that they had been disseminating all of that time?
10. Have not these schools been looked upon for years with scorn and disdain, described as being rigid and stagnant, incapable of interacting with society or having any affect upon it? Now we are being told at length that these schools have this great effect, and now there are all these accusations circulating along with the other goods that America has been exporting.
11. Is it not very strange that these Islamic schools are being targeted by this American trend and its supporters while at the same time these schools are being targeted for scathing attacks by the violent groups themselves?
12. Are our brothers who say these things not aware that the first step towards deviant, extremist thought is taken when people turn away from formal education in general and formal religious education specifically? Sometimes they even forbid these studies for various reasons, claiming that these studies are bereft of blessings and are not undertaken for the sake of Allah. The truth is that a comprehensive Islamic studies curriculum that brings the study of Islamic Law together with its Jurisprudence, Hadîth Studies, Hadîth Commentary, and Qur’ânic Studies produces graduates who are well grounded in their principles, safe from extremism and deviance, and firm in their understanding so they will not easily be affected and swept away by extremist ideologies. This is why it is rare to find graduates of Islamic Universities among the members of extremist groups.
13. If our curriculum is to be accused and if it must carry the responsibility for the conduct of those who study it, then what about those people scattered throughout the world from Mauritania to Algeria, Libya, Australia, and America who do not study in this country? To what extent is our syllabus responsible for their conduct? Does it make sense to make our syllabus the least common denominator?
14. How often have we hoped from those who translated America’s demands to us that they would also convey our queries to them honestly and accurately?
15. Is this American intervention not directly in conflict with the values of freedom and Democracy that America embraces, seeing that these demands deny the Muslims their freedom of religion and education and imposes upon them what they must learn, what they allowed to believe, and what beliefs they must discard?
16. What about the many Christian universities in America and the even more numerous universities that have ties to the church? What about the tens of thousands of Christian schools, not to mention the Christian radio and television stations? Will they be subject to the same treatment as the Islamic schools, or will they continue to enjoy American freedom and Democracy?
17. Will the same thing be said about the Talmud schools in Israel that produce the most impudent and malicious terrorists the world has ever seen? Among their graduates was Yigal Amir who killed Yitzhak Rabin.
18. We would also ask: How is our curriculum responsible for the terrorism that the Europeans committed against each other during the two World Wars, the likes of which the world had never before witnessed? How is it responsible for the terrorism of the Irish Republican Army, the Basque ETA, the Japanese Red Army, the Tamil Tigers, Nicaragua, the Mafia, and the Khmer Rouge?
19. What about those passages of the Bible that talk about blood and the sword, passages of which Friedman is very much aware? There is no harm, though, in reminding him of them. We have in Matthew 10:34-36 that Jesus (peace be upon him) supposedly said: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household.” In Luke 22:36 we have the following quote ascribed to Jesus (peace be upon him): “He said to them, "But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one.” Are the Christians, then, also going to be asked to change their curriculums, or does the word terrorism apply exclusively to the Muslims and their curriculums?
20. So, what is it all about? Is it only to make the Muslims renounce their religion, knowing and believing only what America dictates to them? Is the purpose of all this to dry up the wellsprings of religious knowledge so that the last vestiges of Islamic identity can be obliterated?
“But Allah will complete His light, even though the unbelievers may detest it.” [Sûrah al-Saff: 8]
“And Allah has full power and control over His affairs” [Sûrah Yûsuf: 21]
Nothing that we have said here should be understood as an endorsement of our curriculum. Our religious syllabus, especially, has its shortcomings in many important areas, among them being the areas of character development, moral education, and spiritual growth. Matters of belief need to be dealt with more thoroughly. The Prophet’s biography needs to be given the attention that it deserves, as do the stories of the other Prophets and of the Companions. The general purposes and principal trends of Islamic Law need to be emphasized while less attention should be paid to the minor details of the Law that are the concern of the specialist, not the general Muslim public. Matters like these need to be treated on their own, in a separate article, and more preferably in a series of articles. Similar things can be said about the rest of the subjects taught in our schools, all of which are in need of review, reform, and being brought up to date.
Nevertheless, there is a vast difference between developing our curriculum on the one hand and reform brought about under American direction. The former is being called for by those who give sincere advice and is carried out by equally sincere reformers. The latter is based on lies and accusations and can result in nothing but to strip the curriculum of its character and obliterate its identity and uniqueness. It is enough for the Jews and Christians that they corrupted their own scriptures and tinkered with the words of their Prophets.
“O People of the Scripture, why do you clothe truth with falsehood and conceal the truth while you have knowledge?” [Sûrah Al `Imrân: 71]