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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Friday, April 27, 2007

Final Thoughts ABOUT teaching ABOUT Islam

The dialogue some of us have participated in since Wenesday truly fits into our "Why Bloggers Blog" series. (Part IV is still on its way.)
In case you are just joining this thread of posts: Wednesday I received an invitation from a large state university to attend a five-day seminar on "Teaching Islam in the Classroom." This prompted some thinking and discussion between me and the person promoting the seminar. This is the third (and probably final) sharing of that discussion. I am posting these exchanges only to point out the "disconnect" between questions or ironies raised and answers given. In fairness to this person, It's quite possible she did not go through public K-12 education in America and many not be fully aware of the restrictions currently imposed on our teachers.

Third email from "sender"
[The e-mails are simply "cut and pasted" with minor changes to names.]

Dear Tom:

Actually we do have a number of gradute stduents at ["State"] U who are women and practicisng Muslims who we hope to bring into the class ...to share their views as to, for example, why they chose to wear Islamic dress, why their husbands are supporting them in their graduate work towards PH.Ds, what they want for their female children, etc. So we do intend to integrate them (they are from Malaysia and Indonesia) into the class.
The frustrations you expressed have been expressed to me by teachers who try to teach about Islam, or Judaism, or Buddhism, or HInduism or Christianity in a world history class and have parents calling and complaining! Religion is a part of everyone's culture and much of history cannot be understood without knowing about religion and we need to be able to espress this freely. There is a great difference between teaching ABOUT religion and giving Religious Education with the view of trying to convert someone. The first belongs in our schools, the second does not. And to teach about religion, one should be able to take one's students to visit ALL places of religion in a community.

Best wishes, [signed by name, Center for Asian Studies]

Unsent draft of reply written Friday night:

Dear [first name],

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I know you are busy and did not intend to have this discussion with an administrator, but it has been helpful to me.

I’m glad there are Muslim female grad students residing in Michigan who can speak on those topics at the seminar. I believe your participants will receive them graciously. The hundreds of thousands of Muslims in our state support our schools, our freedoms, and the fact that America is a “Melting Pot”—we love that about our country—but there are enemies who wish to spill that melting pot. Please encourage Dr. Khabil to reiterate that the vast majority of Muslim populations not residing here also respect America’s freedoms and that THEY TOO denounce those who wish to do us harm.

Thank you for clarifying that "There is a great difference between teaching ABOUT religion and ...trying to convert someone. The first belongs in our schools, the second does not.” I agree, but I also think that Dr. Mohammad Hassain Khabil's belief in the Koran does not disqualify him from talking ABOUT it. Does the fact that he is a devout Muslim mean that he is trying to "convert" his students whenever he talks ABOUT Islam? I don't think so.

Perhaps you will better understand the frustration not yet addressed if you remember that K-12 teachers are NOT free to teach ABOUT their religion. For instance, on “Ash Wednesday,” a Catholic teacher in a public school can be told to wash off the ashen cross on her forehead even though it’s only there one day a year. She is not trying to "convert" her class, but she would NOT be free to talk ABOUT the mark she was asked to wash off her forehead. And yet, I think most districts would allow a female Hindu teacher in our K-12 schools to display and talk ABOUT the "bindi" on her forehead. Please don't misunderstand my point. Like you, I think both teachers should be encouraged to bring this dimension to their classroom.

Think of it this way: Your seminar is for K-12 teachers (not comparative religion teachers, just regular K-12 teachers of any grade or subject). Your brochure says you will provide a CD with 30 lesson plans for teaching ABOUT Islam in the classroom. It also mentions “other materials” will be provided. Will any of those lessons make use of the Koran? That would make sense to me, but will the State Board granting the CEUs also grant that teachers be allowed to have a Koran on their podium?

As you said, "Religion is a part of everyone's culture and much of history cannot be understood without knowing about religion." Perhaps this seminar will remind the State Board that talking ABOUT Christianity's role in American [and European] history is very much like talking ABOUT Islam in World history. Likewise, it is inaccurate to teach the first 250 years of education in America without underscoring the prominent role of the Bible in early-American culture and how it continues to shape current thought.

Perhaps a new day is dawning that will restore the freedom to talk ABOUT these things. Seminars like this one you have graciously invited us to attend may hasten its arrival. If so, you are indeed promoting a newsworthy event.

I have enjoyed this discussion with you. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
[signed]
P.S. We had a full-course dinner tonight in the home of some Korean friends. It was delicious. We've eaten together many times. I must confess, I've still not acquired a taste for kimchi, but almost everything else is as enjoyable as the company we share with our new friends from Soul. We are helping them learn English, but they have taught us very much in exchange.

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6 Comments:

Blogger the walking man said...

I am not a "Don't teach religious studies in the classroom " kind of guy, as I have said to may people (insert particular religion here), is not a bad place to start but a piss poor place to end up.

All religion if reflected on are based on a Man's teaching supposedly as told him by God, Christianity.., Jesus, Islam...Muhammad, Buddhism...Siddartha.
Hinduism...To old to know who started that particular form of belief.
And then all of the different sects there of, comprising all of the hundreds of "religious beliefs" of the world.
But if you are to teach fundamentals of one then you must teach fundamentals of all, if for not other reason than balance allowing the individual student to critically arrive at their own conclusion of validity of the form of worship in question.

My personal pique is with all religions from fundamentalist Christianity to radical Islam with (I believe) Buddhism being the centrist position.

Yet where does God enter into all of this? Islam is the cult of Mohammad, Christianity the cult of Jesus, Buddhism the cult of Siddartha. None of these men ever said they were God but all brought somewhat valid teaching to mankind, hell even the words Sri Krishna have validity of potency in the Vedas...but where is it that people are informed of God as God knows him/her self to be?

My personal relationship with God, does not include any of the above mentioned men, although God in teaching me about Deity has used each of their teachings as a part of the framework of my understanding to know the Maker of the cosmos.

Fighting wars over the Father of LOVE and PEACE seems absolutely ludicrous to me. Yet mankind has been doing it since Nimrod.

I never interfere with an individuals personal religious convictions be it a Catholic and some burned plants on their forehead or a Muslim female wearing a headscarf (Bhurka) as a sign of modesty. yet I try to understand the rational behind all of the different practices behind what the religious folk do to understand them better.

And here is the rub of the text of these letters; will the eminent Dr. of Islam teach the teachers that the only true Jihad is one that is fought over the Holy Land, which in turn means Jerusalem, not Madrid, not New York, and that a fatwah is something dreamed up centuries ago by the Muslim clerics to further give instruction to their sheep. Not an instruction in the Qur'an but like cabalaism a man made interpretation of the prophets words.

Nope it say God HIMSELF will teach you and that is good enough for me.

Peace

TWM

28/4/07 6:47 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

TWM,
Thanks for stopping by. I first read your quote "religions are not a bad place to stat just a piss poor place to end" in a comment of yours. It caught my attention and made me smile. I agree. Faith is about RELATIONSHIP not RELIGION.
Thank you for accepting that some folks (like me) do base their faith on a tangible source. In my case it's the Bible, which points out what you're talking about...that from the beginning God has been providing a way for the very relationship with Him that you describe. Creation speaks of that desire for relationship. It is my understanding that "the fall" (in Genesis) broke that relationship and the rest of both testaments is the story of its restoration. When we do it man's way, it's a disaster. I express this not to try to "convert" you but to help you see why I value the shared thoughts of your journey.

28/4/07 8:09 AM  
Blogger Josie said...

Tom, I liked your "labels" in this post, i.e., goose and gander. That, I believe, is the whole point of your discussion with the University. They must understand that. Their policy continues to be exclusionary, and they are just going around in circles and not giving a valid answer as to why they are doing that. I would encourage you to keep "fighting" them, and to bring this issue to light in any forum you can. Heck, this should be discussed on the Glenn Beck program! Enough is enough already.

We have the same problems in Canada, and I am tired of giving away my religion, culture, traditions just because we have become "multi-cultural". Doesn't multi-cultural include my culture as well? I am old enough to remember when, as children, we each had a passage to read from the Bible each morning, and we started the day saying the Lord's Prayer. That was our culture and our society. Who allowed us to give it away? To turn it into something that is against the law. If we were all to move to countries with other cultures, would they allow that to happen to their traditions just to accommodate us? No darn fear! Where is our pride that we have allowed our culture to be given away just accommodate other people? They haven't asked us to do it, and most of them are surprised and saddened that we have.

I'm so glad you are doing this series, and as I have said before, I wish the whole world could read it.

Josie

28/4/07 11:17 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Josie,
I must admit...as I was "proofing" my second response and reading it out loud, it started to feel like a soap box and I asked myself if that was good or bad. So often soap boxes are selfish and misguided. I did not "look for this topic." It was in my "in box" and hit me between the eyes.
As I read the "sender's" third response it became more clear to me that she may be by-lingual (and unfamiliar with our K-12 laws on this topic). This topic and these feelings are not her fault. She is only "a messenger" so whatever I may do with these thoughts it will be a different venue (and perhaps more than one). Like you said, America/Canada has been multi-cultural for a long time. That's not the issue, but let's not exclude the belief system that taught us how to "include" our neighbor as ourself.

28/4/07 3:19 PM  
Blogger the walking man said...

Josie and Tom, in a multi-cultural society we tend to be overly cautious when it comes to offering offense to immigrant populations. allowing them to assimilate or not as the individual sees fit.

9/10ths of Detroit's problems stem from a large,huge immigrant population beginning in the very early twentieth century not assimilating into one American culture with all of the Pole, Ukrainians, southern Blacks, whites, Irish,Italians, Jews; all staking out their own territory and only mingling on the factory floor instead of building a diverse culture.

ever hear of an old Italian grandma in this country 40 years but never learned the language? Yet Canada made bi-lingualism a law.

But the discussion is about making an attempt to educate basically what are American Christians see where the beauty of Islam lies, yet we all know that Islamic countries persecute the minority populations (Chaldean's, Arabic Christians, Jews) or keep Majority populations subjugated through the control of the gun and the economic power (Apartheid, and Shia Muslims in pre-war Iraq for example)

Germany is not a "melting pot country" neither for that matter from what I read is any other European nation with the exception of maybe Britain, which was forced into it through two hundred years of empirical ambition.

So it begs the question would the Pope for example be allowed to go to a Muslim University and for five days teach Catholicism or would it be against the law? I believe in a majority of Muslim countries it would be against their laws, yet they are millenarian old societies that have evolved into their present state and now feel like since the fifth century have been second class (which is foolish if you study their art, mathematics.)

While I personally believe we have enough stew in the pot of North America now and don't need anymore, the discussion is between us on religious tolerance. It wasn't that many centuries ago i would have been branded a heretic for the comment in my first post in this thread yet now I am allowed to preach, teach, proselytize as I see fit. Teaching as I have been taught.

Yet i have to stand with you both on this issue, until a public school teacher can wear their burnt palm ashes as a sign of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem, then no religious practice should be allowed to be taught in a state university under the principal of separation of church and state.

29/4/07 9:31 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

TWM,
I did send this and the person responded to it very well. She fully understands that the current situation is not fair. She would agree with your last paragraph.
You have a very good understanding of world religions, and like you, this person is all in favor of practicing Christians in K-12 classrooms having the same freedom to talk about it. She didn't come right out and say it but her last email reflected that she was unaware of the "gag order" on people of faith in the classrooms. She never acknowledged how college professors treat students whose worldview is shaped by faith, but she did thank me for the good discussion.

1/5/07 5:20 PM  

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