Tuesday, 1 October 2013

My asking to talk about Islam and extremism: A correspondence with my old school

2nd October, 2013
ITC notes for this page:  I am working on ridding my website of that bug where the text has been hijacked and words have been converted into links by some organization that calls itself, "Discount Buddy".  Don't bother to waste your time clicking on these linked words.  There is a virus removal tool that I have to find time to download for this dudu (parasite) riding on my shoulder. 

Secondly I gave away the name of my old school on this page :-{ and I apologise to anyone affected by that slip.  I have removed all sensitive references, now.

Me to ERS:
It would certainly be nice to share sentiments from my point of view about the state of affairs vis a vis terrorism and the conflating it with Islam with teachers, pupils and Old Dellians.  I am not sure that such an opportunity could be created?

On 1 October 2013 17:44, ERS/DO wrote:

Hello Mohamed,
Thank you for your email and your offer to share your thoughts with the community.
The pupils have a wide range of lectures throughout the year and of course most of the lectures tie into the curriculum. The opportunities for lectures are tight due to pupil/staff commitments so it really depends on what you would like to talk/lecture about? The lectures for the winter term may already be allocated but perhaps if you let me know your topic (specifically) I can see if it might be relevant to our politics pupils.
Let me know what you would like to discuss and I’ll get in touch with our politics teacher to see if there is room this term.
Many thanks and best of luck!

Copyright (c) 2013, by Mohamed Jiwa, Nairobi, All Rights Reserved

ERS, thanks for that response:

This triggers me to give thought to the sorts of questions and approaches that would engage the audience and I am really enjoying that exercise because it even helps me to ponder over the sorts of things one would raise in a text book for that very purpose.
Depending on whom I'd be addressing and assuming that the main audience would be pupils, my interest would have to do with taking a cursory look at both (or the various) sides of the question that concerns Great Britain, and the implications for the students themselves.  I am really good with interactive discussions and this subject may more likely be tackled successfully in smaller groups of 30 to 40 (than in large ones the like of which I recall we used to have in Big School at the end of the week).  Introducing a point of view may be easier and more useful than to end up doing a general or a more academic talk, leading to the fielding of some pretty cantankerous questions that could turn the session into a debate which should be avoided.  The purpose of my wanting to share is to bring the two worlds closer and to bridge them, where possible.
If one were restricted to say, one session in a classroom, then there would be a handout that would introduce some basic common religious or social questions the students could choose from.  It would be up to the person leading the class to assemble some material that would inspire individual engagement to follow up the limited amount of class time. 

It could also be structured as a Close Encounter of the Qur'anic/ Shi'i/Fatimid Kind too.  This could draw on a period in Islamic history when interaction between the three Abrahaminic faiths were inevitable, on readings or comparative readings of their texts. I could, actually, use a reading assignment and, depending on the age group, share a personal experience as a Muslim in completely Christian environment in 1965 - since I was a St A's boy as well, and a proud owner of my own Crusader bible. Certainly, not only reading but any medium that the class would like to use to engage the problem would be a point of access. 

In a course - to differentiate this from a class - there would be several wonderful options which, for me, would be very exciting.

Suppose pupils chose to engage Islam in an art class then there are several expressions we'd look at including iconoclasm, calligraphy and even things like tattoos or the destruction of the giant Buddhas in Afghanistan  (which could take a historical question about Buddhism forward to the present day practices of the Taliban).  In music (as I am also a musician) I should look at, for example, Sufism and bring some materials with me that may... blow their minds (ie help them feel a sense of wonder for the subject) for a few minutes for, Sufism is quite amenable to comparison with Hinduism (perceived by some Muslim groups as idolatry) and atheism.  A list of important authors who have contributed to the study of Islam, Near and Middle Eastern, Asian and South Asian cultures in the contemporary context would be de rigueur.

I would first be interested to see the curriculum for the relevant Divinity, RE, PoliSci or other subjects that are offered in IGCSE, or IB, if they are applicable, to make the class even more specific, and to know in which way to limit and develop the lesson plan in a manner that serves to increase the pupils' confidence in their preparatory study of comparative religion and Islam in particular.

Does Dells offer IB and what are the reasons?

Looking at Islam through the lens of Christianity is also very interesting and there would be much to gain from the perspective of the students with their varied backgrounds.   I had the opportunity to do that myself in practical terms and my experience was unique.

Anything is possible actually:  but, obviously, I'd have to restrict minimum time given to me to, say, one medium (like a poem or a treatise or a historical event)  In preparatory consultations it may help to decide to what degree it would behoove the students to delve into radical anti-Islamic literature that attempts to understand the current crisis and why terrorism is being conflating with Islam as a whole.  What are the political forces at play?

My work would be to sift through the material and to find something relevant to the time and place in which I would bring it.

This last thread - extremism - has got to be addressed at some point to give as much information about both positions as possible, as the two extremes are about to get at each other's throats which is of serious concern to a lot of people in the middle.  The children do not want to inherit the risks we have put them in by our parochial, isolationist or insular lifestyles as parents, and we have no right to bequeath such risks in daily life to them.  I think we can all see that the problem has to be faced and lanced.  But the lancing, if it is to be approached with preventing violence in mind, may turn out to be an endeavour of generations.

Did you know that it is being said that 40% of Britons today are preparing for civil war because of the rise of Islam in Europe?  Crikey.  One of the most important questions that needs to be looked at and simplified is, "What, then, is Islam, and why does it ring of terror in the hearts of peace-loving people who come from idyllic antecedents? What's going on?"  To simplify an understanding of the forces at play would be my job.
Thanks for provoking my response!