when analysing text under the Otoom mind model the same principles apply as
when observing human behaviour.
This time the
thought structures applicable to Western and/or Australian culture on one
hand and those belonging to the Islamic mindset are deconstructed at the moment
of one set interacting with the other's.
- systems in their own right - are behind the behaviour humans enact which
in turn impacts on their environment which then flows back to humans in the
form of feedback. Therefore the ultimate viability of a society depends on
how congruent that entire process can be made in relation to the respective
environmental conditions, be they social, political, derived from knowledge
vs ideology or provided by nature itself.
analysis plus what it finds are part of Otoom.
See a similar
treatment given to a review of "Learning from one another".
How "peaceful" or otherwise is Islam really? See Excerpts from the Koran.
cognitive analysis of "Learning from one another"
A teachers' advisory
manual, "Learning from One Another: Bringing Muslim perspectives into Australian
schools" , has been written against the background of rising numbers of
Muslims in Australia. It is intended as a guide to familiarise primary and
secondary school teachers with the needs of their Muslim pupils. What follows
is an analysis of the text from the view point of cognitive dynamics. But
first a brief outline on the latter's main aspects that are relevant here.
The human mind
is a processor of information. How this is done depends on the data themselves
and to what extend they are able to relate to pre-existing knowledge. Learning
is enhanced when the input 'makes sense' but becomes more difficult when the
necessary bridges are missing.
The absence of
these bridges becomes an issue in the case of a broader audience who cannot
be expected to possess a ready-made relationship with some content. Links
have to be created to establish an affinity between speaker and listener,
or writer and reader, or between advertiser and consumer.
In terms of cognitive
dynamics people can be grouped into clusters that are defined according to
their subject matter, where the degree of belonging can be compared to a pyramid
with its rising scale of interest in the subject towards the top. The many
members with their more or less peripheral interest, becoming less in number
as the interest intensifies around the middle, with the very few representative
of something akin to obsession at the peak, form the shape. Yet they all belong
to the same framework.
many groups and therefore many such structures, with necessary overlaps. Communication
becomes productive between members of two pyramids provided the transmission
occurs at respective levels that are low enough to ensure a certain commonality
without being interfered with by more focused perspectives.
parliamentary members of the Liberal Party would not participate in formulating
Labor policies but would support a pay rise for politicians in general. Their
level of cooperation decreases as their concern gets closer to actual party
not only exist laterally across society, they also exist in a vertical sense
in terms of the groups' knowledge and experience. Children within their configuration
will have more in common with any of the adult pyramids towards their bases
simply because they have not yet reached the higher levels of focus that eventually
differentiate the groups from one another.
of affinity and degree of focus can be made use of when it comes to changing
people's minds, so much so that one's conscious will to change hardly matters.
from one another"
page references are taken from the pdf version of the document (available
The text is meant
as an introduction to Islam for the guidance of teachers of pre-tertiary sector
pupils. As such the quote from the Quran at the very beginning (p. iii), directly
representing as it does a form of ideology in an authoritative manner, sits
at odds with the stated purpose. An introduction is not a command calling
for submission to what is presented.
purpose of the text is emphasised at the beginning of the Foreword (p. v),
written by Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh from the National Centre of Excellence
for Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne, where we read it offers
"Australian teachers some very practical ideas to ensure the continued engagement
of Muslim pupils". From that it could be inferred that what follows represents
an attempt at making it easier for Muslim pupils to relate to the Australian
In the next paragraph
however we learn that Australia's culture "celebrates the rich inheritance
of its inhabitants - new and old - and fosters mutual respect and understanding",
without however hinting at the possibility that some of this inheritance may
disagree with the host culture. Still, the paragraph ends with us remaining
"committed to the humanist value system".
That last rider
is left aside however in the next sentences where a "vibrant cosmopolitan
society" has moved beyond tolerance and respect and embraces diversity which
is understood as "breaking the barriers that separate us". It opens the door
to synthesis, we are told. For this two-way process to be facilitated our
teachers play a "critical role" and thus "shape the future of our society".
respect have to be earned through the open display of actions that seek to
find an agreement with the observer. Jumping over that important step and
embracing everything that is different through a breaking down of barriers
which would allow conscious choice is in effect an exercise in brainwashing.
Synthesis does not happen between two disparate concepts; only when the differences
have been pared away can the two become one. Furthermore, the humanist value
system  does not agree with religious tenets in many important aspects.
A synthesis is only possible after a considerable modification of either and,
as the text clearly states, it is our teachers who are meant to be used for
makes the not unreasonable observation that due to the sheer number of Muslims
in Asia and particularly on Australia's doorstep it has become important to
understand Islamic culture (p. 1). The Australian Federal Government provides
funding to "promote the understanding of Islam and Muslims" and a three-university
consortium strives to accomplish just that. Its name, the National Centre
of Excellence for Islamic Studies (NCEIS), suggests a university-standard
examination and analysis of Islam. The present document is supposed to supplement
Yet the "inspiration
for the title" (ie, "Learning from one another") comes from the Quran: "People,
We created you from a single man and a single woman, and made you into nations
and tribes so that you should all get to know one another". Therefore, a handful
of universities undertake an analysis under the leitmotiv from a primitive
age to which no comparable institution would relate under other circumstances.
approach of LFOA we are told - warned? - that when it comes to the translation
of Arabic terms, "linguistic accuracy is not the goal", and sometimes Arabic
terms were avoided altogether. Any document that treats expressions specific
to its subject matter in such a cavalier fashion does not inspire much confidence.
the main goals of this resource we read,
avenues for teachers to introduce Islam and Muslim related content in their
2. equip teachers with the skills to meet the needs and expectations of
Muslim students and their parents in education
3. facilitate a whole-school approach to supporting healthy relationships
and engagement with Muslim students, parents and communities
4. offer teachers a greater awareness of the diversity of Islam and Muslims,
nationally and globally
5. develop an appreciation of Muslim history and cultures in Australia.
Note the order
of priority. First comes the introduction of Islamic material in classrooms;
then comes the training of teachers in Islam-approved ways to synchronise
with the expectations of Muslim students and their parents; thirdly the entire
school gets modified to ensure the relations with Muslims remain "healthy"
(although no mention is made of which side's health is actually promoted);
next the teachers are brought into line to accommodate the diversity of Muslims
everywhere presumably so that sectarian strife can be avoided (as reality
proves, a tall order); and finally, cement the appreciation of Islam within
the minds of pupils lest their own background interferes.
In their closing
paragraphs the authors recommend the above strategies "regardless of the number
of Muslim students in attendance" (p. 3).
- Part A - Islam and Muslims in the classroom
The first issue
addressed in Part A is English. While acknowledging that speaking the language
of their host society is important, teachers are nevertheless exhorted to
observe Muslim sensitivities when speaking on certain subjects. Examples where
Muslim pupils and/or their parents might take exception are,
- sex (including
sexual exploration among adolescents, extra-marital sex, sexual promiscuity
and sexual orientation)
- drug use (even
if it is not condoned by the text)
- music (refer
to the Arts section in Part A for an explanation of Muslim sensitivities
religious celebrations (especially Easter and Christmas)
- other celebrations
(such as birthdays and parties, which some Muslims do not condone, believing
that Muslims should not follow the ways of non-Muslims)
bias (particularly when information about Islam and/or Muslims is misrepresented
or one- sided). (p. 6)
are subjects relating to the general conduct in society taught in primary
and/or secondary schools (quite apart from the parental home), the above would
be exceptions that fall outside the societal norm. If they are exceptions,
does that mean there is one set of rules for Muslims and another for the rest?
"Islam is a complete way of living, governing all aspects of spirituality,
personal conduct and social regulation" (p. 7), offered as the reason for
the exceptions suggests an innate incompatibility on behalf of Islam with
and content to introduce the extra-national framework include The Red Camel
for primary school pupils and Does my head look big in this? for teenagers.
Material attractive to the respective age group is used to build the conceptual
bridge between local and foreign values across which the latter can be imported.
For older students
teachers are advised to use the poem Allah as a literary means to search for
the Islamic god (p. 8). If teachers are supposed to be selling a religion
to Australian secondary school children then at the very least the idea ought
to be identified as such. Hiding behind a seemingly innocuous introduction
to other lands the action becomes subversive. Again, the conceptual bridge
is made by having the class discuss the poem's content in terms of what they
are familiar with already, in order for the importation to become feasible.
example of a manipulative exercise is the proposed activity involving three
keywords, jihad, hijab and sharia (p. 9). Individuals who, because of their
age, do not possess the critical faculties of more experienced adults, are
cajoled into mental efforts to reinterpret the connotations of those key words.
The grim and brutal conceptual environment of daily life is replaced by spiritual
concepts that change the meaning for all practical purposes. As a means to
modify a hitherto unpalatable idea into something more acceptable it is nothing
new - ideological regimes do it all the time. In the present document the
practice is referred to as 'positioning the reader'.
The very first
sentence in this section reads, "The exploration and advancement of science
has been one of the hallmarks of Muslim civilisation" (p. 11). Further on
that initial statement is somewhat modified to become, "The Muslim philosophy
of science is based on the idea that God is the creator of everything, and
from this perspective the foundation for science is the Quran", and later,
"Scientific exploration among Muslims has traditionally been driven by the
Quran, Sunna (Prophet Muhammad's traditions) and religious requirements".
In the West, one example of a philosophy of science can be found in the work
of Karl Popper where he investigates, broadly speaking, the relationship between
evidence and deduction in order to produce objective conclusions . Another
would be Wittgenstein's treatment of the situatedness of language forming
conceptual frameworks that give rise to our perception of the world . What
connects these works is the juxtaposition of questions of meaning against
objective evidence, in other words, interpretation vs observation. Bertrand
Russel is worth quoting:
... is something intermediate between theology and science. Like theology,
it consists of speculations on matters as to which definite knowledge has,
so far, been unascertainable; but like science, it appeals to human reason
rather than to authority, whether that of tradition or that of revelation.
For the authors
of LFOA to explain that Muslims "see science and religion as complimentary"
and "in medieval times, Muslim scientists were also experts in theology and
Islamic law" (p. 11) may seem impressive to young minds, but for an educator
to express such contradictions in terms is questionable.
Although it is
not openly stated as such, the reservation by some Muslims to be taught about
evolution or to view diagrams of the naked human body should be seen as a
warning to stay away from such subjects. After all, it was deemed to be sufficiently
important to have been included in this manual (p. 11).
I leave the following
items listed as representative of Islamic contributions to science (p. 12)
to the experts in their respective fields; suffice to say that the wording
is somewhat amorphous and does not furnish any precise detail. In any case,
the latest year mentioned there is 1248 (p. 13), a relatively early chapter
in the history of scientific evolution.
In line with
the overall purpose the Islamic contribution in this area is again highlighted,
but once again lacks precision. To point out that "'zero' comes from the Arabic
word 'sifr' [is] of particular interest" (p. 14) does not mean that the concept
emanated from Islamic and/or Arabian thought, a semantic detail probably lost
to the average pupil.
The Muslim scholar
Alkhwarezm is presented and his equations (p. 21). While certainly interesting
from a historical point of view, his work dates from the early 9th century.
To somehow delineate from those times to a contemporary status of Islamic
research as being significant for today's school students does nothing for
the currency of their curriculum.
The first sentence
here, "Since the advent of Islam in 7th-century Arabia, Muslims have shaped
world events politically, economically, religiously and intellectually", is
adjoined by the next one which states, "Even in modern history, Muslim politics
powerfully influence international relations the world over" (p. 22). The
first radiates conceptually towards the second, that is to say the positive
message of the former influences the latter, especially since events in the
distant past no longer have the same impact as their contemporary counterparts.
When separated however the meaning of Muslim politics being a powerful influence
in world affairs would have a far more negative ambience (eg, the uprisings
of so many Muslim separatist groups, Muslim incursions into neighbouring countries,
Muslim militias operating globally, Islam-driven terrorism). Since even secondary
school pupils would not have a deeper grasp of politics and warfare the above
represents the use of a conceptual simplicity to misleadingly configure information.
The next paragraph
states, "Muslims have their own version of history that needs to be acknowledged
and appreciated. Providing students with only a Euro-centric version of history
denies them the opportunity to evaluate different perspectives on past world
events - a skill necessary to form a more nuanced view of the world as it
To say that Muslims
have their own version of a material that, at least in the West, is constantly
subjected to investigation and debate, puts them at considerable odds with
a practice determined by ongoing critique. In the West even history as a topic
itself has not escaped modern analysis, one of the first being Hegel's Philosophy
of History  from the early 1800s.
"A constructive approach to differences of opinion on history involves the
teacher and students learning with and from each other. This is particularly
the case in a multicultural and multifaith classroom" confuses the paedagogic
status of primary and secondary schools. It is true that teacher and students
learning together is a viable concept, but one which requires a commensurate
level of intellectual dexterity on both sides. It has been elucidated by Wilhelm
von Humboldt who saw university education as
Just as primary
instruction makes the teacher possible, so he renders himself dispensable
through schooling at the secondary level. The university teacher is thus
no longer a teacher and the student is no longer a pupil. Instead the student
conducts research on his own behalf and the professor supervises
his research and supports him in it.  (my italics)
model has become the standard for the modern Western university. For the authors
of LFOA to declare, "Effective history teaching encourages a culture of enquiry
and active discussion about different perspectives" moves multilateral enquiry
into minds that are hardly yet equipped to master objective analysis. Used
as a stepping stone into adulthood it gives rise to the modern sentiment that
'everything is just another opinion', regardless of the underlying facts.
Such teaching does not "encourage respect", as the authors would have us believe,
but rather leads to an uncritical acceptance of anything provided it is supported
by a sufficiently emotional intensity.
of that subjectivism can be found in the sentence, "In selecting a variety
of resources, a good place to start is your local community; Muslim parents
or community representatives are often delighted to share their stories or
perspectives with students" (p. 23). Although individuals may have their own
stories, for educational purposes a more objective approach is needed. Nor
is the "wealth of material freely available on the internet" a productive
source; anyone can say anything out there, and teachers should not hand over
their authority to potential sources of misinformation.
earlier Muslim travellers the authors write in relation to this subject, "Because
of this tradition, Muslims generally show a keen interest in this subject",
and, "For devout Muslims, this interest can also be a reflection of a Quranic
injunction to travel the world in order to appreciate the greatness of God
by learning about its landscapes and its peoples" (p. 33). Yet in the next
paragraph we learn, "As many Muslims in the world today are undereducated
and socio-economically disadvantaged, topics such as world aid, the 'Third
World' and demographics are of particular interest to them".
Leaving the religious
injunction aside (which in a secular school system is out of place anyway)
there is a contradiction between the supposed, religion inspired, interest
in geography and the need to teach geography because many Muslims are under-educated.
as worthy of discussion include, "Israel and Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya,
Southern Philippines (in particular, ARMM, or the Autonomous Region of Muslim
Mindanao), India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as Malaysia, Singapore,
Southern Thailand, Aceh and Central Asia". Every one of them represents a
considerable problem in today's international and local politics spanning
many issues which are far beyond the primary and secondary school curriculum.
To include them in any case requires a simplification bordering on meaninglessness.
Later in the
section detailed instructions are given to find Mecca for the purposes of
prayer. Note that this manual is not intended for religious instruction.
"Worksheet: Get the facts" features a table listing the various religious
affiliations as a percentage of Australia's population (p. 40). Islam comprises
1.7% of the total. Given that fifteen others are mentioned (including 'no
religion'), eight of which have a higher percentage, should a balanced treatment
of the subject not also deal with the rest in order to further multi-cultural
visual arts, the text states, "..some Muslim students and/or their parents
will be uncomfortable with drawing and sculpting animate objects (people and
animals). Muslim students who adopt this stance, either of their own accord
or on account of parental instruction, might purposely avoid drawing living
creatures in full", and later, "While most Muslims do not see any harm in
drawing animate objects, some students have gone as far as defacing their
works and the works of others. They base their opinion on a literal reading
of the following saying of Prophet Muhammad: 'Whoever depicts an animate object
then God will charge him with giving that object a soul on the Day of Judgement
(sic)'" (p. 42).
As LFOA is a
guide for teachers to keep relations with their Muslim charges "healthy",
it seems the above manifestations of religious fervour mean that disruption
in the classroom is allowed as long as the Quran approves it.
Music is another
problematic area for Muslims. We read that music is prohibited except during
certain festivals, all musical instruments except one are prohibited, and
all types of musical instruments and singing are permissible (!?) provided
"modesty, moral decency and religious rules are observed". In the West these
types of constraints belong to the Middle Ages. Teachers are advised to "negotiate"
with "students and their families".
- Health and PE
The subject of
sex has always been contentious in Middle Eastern religions. From the ancient
Persian religions to Manichaeism  to the fear of eros in the Old and New
Testament of the Bible and the - still - rigid morality of Islam, the West
has nevertheless not been devoid of critics (consider Marcuse's treatment
as an example ).
the problem (p. 51), but once again wants teachers to "negotiate". If a wider
analysis of sexual attitudes and mores around the world is desired, the treatment
requires a considerable scope and cannot be squeezed into compact sentiments
that are designed to be nothing more than a means for avoiding religious aggression
in the classroom.
No other current
religion is as dictatorial as Islam when it comes to dress, especially for
females. In line with the accommodating tone of the document any considerations
about health, humidity and heat (particularly pertinent in Australia's hot
climate and non-air-conditioned classrooms) are not entered into; rather the
need to observe the dictates of their religion are placed above everything
else so that teachers are put in the unenviable role of supporting a dress
code objectively identifiable as unhealthy under many conditions. How that
can be reconciled with the standards of a secular society is not explained.
When it comes
to religious fasting and physical activity the teachers are required to negotiate
with the parents the best possible options, looking to the Quran for enlightenment
(p. 52). Thus teachers in a largely secular school system are pushed into
the role of interpreters of doctrine.
- Economics and Business
We are told that
due to the Oil Boom "the Muslim world has become an important player in the
global economy", and "Some of the wealthiest people in the world are Muslims"
(p. 53). These glib statements hide the ultimate source of that wealth which
can be traced to Western technology and standards of living. A more balanced
view would have incorporated the wider picture. Since it hasn't, LFOA is not
a balanced document.
Nor is the Muslim
practice of ritual slaughtering entered into. Teachers are merely meant to
mention that halal food exists and has become an important import and export
Pupils are instructed
that under Islam the charging of interest is seen as a "form of oppression"
and "[Muslims] argue that it makes the rich richer and the poor poorer", but
also "that many Muslim communities live in poverty". The inherent contradiction
is not entered into, preventing the intended audience from considering the
- Cross-curricular Perspectives
Issues such as
"Stereotypes, prejudice, ignorance, misinformation, misconceptions, racism"
(p. 57) are indeed worthwhile topics to be discussed but require a perspective
from a higher level than religious doctrine can afford. Especially when Muslims'
"allegiance to Australia has been questioned" it is necessary to point to
the overriding dictates of their religion which allowed others (and not just
in Australia) to question their real allegiance. The text makes no mention
In this context
it is interesting to note that in subsection "Worksheet: What's in a name?"
the results of a study by researchers from the Australian National University
are listed which showed how many more applications were required using a Chinese,
Middle Eastern, Indigenous and Italian name to get the same number of job
interviews when using an Anglo-Saxon name (p. 62). According to the CVs in
the test all the applicants had completed high school in Australia. Obviously,
stereotyping played a role in the results, but the conclusion would be that
despite the intended equalising influence of the school system the perception
by the employers did not follow through. How much more justified would employers
be in their assumption if schools made a point of nurturing cultural differences?
- Part B - Achieving Positive Outcomes for Muslim Students
- Engagement and Identity for Muslim Students
In the subsection
"Engagement in learning" the authors discuss the difficulty many migrant children
face in the classroom because they are used to a different education system
(p. 65). In the case of Muslims they believe teachers "are meant to be authoritative
and trusted figures whose job is to impart as much of their knowledge as possible
to their students", and therefore the role of a student is to listen carefully
and learn as much as they can. Their method is posited against the constructivist
approach used in Australia which requires discussion and active participation.
The authors could
have mentioned that in Australia too the modern way is quite recent. Since
part of the change has been due to the influence of feminism in the second
half of the 20th century and its ambition to change the methods to those more
agreeable to girls, one symptom, the decline in academic standards in boys,
has even been the subject of a House of Representatives enquiry . The
male-oriented culture of Islam has remained with the traditional model. However,
instead of appreciating the latter teachers are advised to make their pupils
recognise the "merits" of "oral presentations, class discussions, debates,
journals and projects" (p. 66).
On the subject
of discipline and respect the authors understand the need for further explanation
since the "open and friendly way in which students and teachers interact in
Australian schools may also come as a shock to some Muslim students and their
parents", seeing it "as a lack of respect as opposed to a fun learning environment".
According to the text "Australian schools still emphasise the fundamental
value of respect". On the other hand, in January 2010 the Queensland State
Government saw it necessary to form a consortium of several school-related
associations called the Queensland Schools Alliance Against Violence with
the purpose of stemming violence in schools  and their "fun learning environment".
Interestingly, in both of the above cases the authors, although addressing
the issues, do not touch upon the possibility that more traditional learning
systems could be better - an attitude that could be expected given the conciliatory
attitude elsewhere in the document.
A similar treatment
can be found in the subsection "Parental expectations and rebellion" (p. 68).
Concerns such as lack of discipline shown by Australian children, not enough
homework, or disrespect for teachers have been expressed to researchers on
that subject. "..some of these concerns are not unique to Muslims" is the
only nod given to a much wider problem in society.
- Facilitating Religious Practice and Customs in Schools
interferes with the general conduct in a secular society due to its innate
idiosyncrasy. The more particular one's way of life under a doctrine, the
greater the possibility of clashes. In today's environment within advanced
nations the detailed rules of Islamic piety run against many customs, be they
personal or organisational. No wonder that for Muslims prayer, fasting and
the attendance at their festivals represent an issue in schools (p. 70 onwards).
Especially with children the granting of exceptions and/or particular facilities
can be problematic when in addition the pressures of school life demand the
submission to a common schedule.
Before any attempts
are made to involve administrative authorities in cumbersome and sensitive
efforts to bend the rules, the question should be asked to what an extent
such modifications are feasible. It comes down to the fundamental choice of
what is more important - rejecting religious whimsy and integrating into a
wider society or insisting on one's customs and choosing another society.
It is clear the authors could not bring themselves to get even close to that
One of the more
basic behaviours of humans is eating, and again the pervasiveness of Islam
causes pressure points through its insistence of halal food. From the type
of animal to the method of slaughter its diversion from secular priorities
does not make for harmony. A sentence such as, "..using a sharp blade so as
not to torture the animal" (p. 73) would suggest that only slicing one's head
off with a blunt blade constitutes torture. How far children would make that
distinction is debatable, but considering that Sharia law requires the condemned
prisoner's head be cut off with a sword places the above remark in interesting
LFOA makes no
attempt to address the disparity between Islam and Western sensibilities but
stipulates the need to make room in the general school system for practices
that are based solely on belief. In the text the onus rests with the teachers
to ensure the correct version of food is made available to their classes (p.
the subsection refers to the hijab only, leaving out the burqa. The accompanying
picture of two women, one clearly smiling and the other's face hidden except
for the eyes and a small part of the forehead, represent the mollifying symbolisation
of an issue that in real life is far more confronting (p. 74).
a Liberal senator caused "outrage" from the Muslim community when he called
for a ban on the burqa , and a recent survey found that only 26.4% of
Europeans in general agree with the wearing of the veil, while in Spain the
figure is 28.1%, in Germany 15.0% and in France it is 16.6% .
coming from Muslims and cited in LFOA, such as the garment
- is loose
fitting (such as an abaya, which is a loose gown or wraparound)
- does not attract
- does not resemble
- does not imitate
the clothing of non-Muslims (p. 75)
do not lead to
an appreciation for mutual tolerance on behalf of their host society.
activities require girls to travel for more than a day and a night without
an Islam-approved guardian the clash between cultures becomes once more apparent
(p. 76). Since there is no other religion that bans it adherents from such
normal activities as camps the exceptional status of Muslims presents another
problem for teachers. The text does not offer any solution apart from an implied
acceptance of idiosyncrasy as fact. Even such ordinary acts as a handshake
are brought under the guise of "desire". In a Western context educators would
view such impositions as a form of sexualising children.
- Part C - Wide World of Muslims
Much of this
section concerns itself with a summary of religious detail (p. 77 onwards).
A study of religion in a secular system should concentrate on ascertainable
facts that have been collected by independent observers, otherwise the explanation
deteriorates into doctrinaire teaching. It is doubtful whether primary school
children would benefit from such a course, and for secondary schools the subject
would have to be integrated with the overall exposure to history and geography,
and ideally with psychology. Religions have always influenced history, sometimes
with devastating results. In LFOA however there is no opportunity for the
students to consider the wider ramifications stemming from the spread of Islam,
nor are they exposed to the psychological issues surrounding someone who hears
- A Very Brief History of Islam
It is brief indeed.
So much so that it could be considered as a sugary adjunct to religious teaching,
since as a history course it is virtually meaningless. The growth of Islam
is taken out of the very real context of warfare, submission and revenge.
That context forms an integral part of any study of history and therefore
leads to the ongoing debates on this or that ultimate correctness. In its
absence the authors would have done better leaving this section out altogether.
Notable is the
mention of the Crusades as an example of distrust between Islam and the West.
We read, "Often, this mistrust is caused by, and/or coupled with, ignorance
and prejudice" (p. 95). What the authors do not mention is that such ignorance
and prejudice is a symptom of ideological perspectives (including medieval
Europe), religions being the spiritual version. Yet the entire document explicitly
reiterates the religion of Islam throughout its pages.
- Muslims in Australia
What has been
said about the overall history of Islam applies here as well. For example,
references to unemployment, ie, "Muslim unemployment figures are generally
higher than the national average" are partly related to "underlying discrimination
and prejudice towards non-Europeans" (p. 98), leaving out the lack of integration
on behalf of Muslims. A following sentence is telling, "But Muslims should
not be seen as a separate social entity when we talk about contributions to
society. They do not deserve special treatment or scrutiny" (p. 99). After
98 pages containing one extra consideration after another that sentiment is
- Misconceptions and Stereotypes
represents the usual custom of religionists selling their own beliefs. A detailed
description of ideological thought structures goes beyond the scope of this
analysis; suffice to say that subjectivism will always grate against the view
from the outside simply because the latter is able to discern the former's
incongruence with reality. The - Western - history of science and indeed the
Age of Reason is testimony to the serious efforts by notable individuals to
overcome the impediments of captured thinking.
On the practical
side a comparison between nations in terms of their religious composition
shows that the higher the degree of intensity the lower the standards (measured
were, average life expectancy, infant mortality, literacy and GDP per capita,
and their respective religion) . As the tables demonstrate, Islamic countries
consistently feature on the lower rungs due to the pervasive nature of their
For most purposes
the nature of cognitive dynamics are sufficiently understood to impart information
in an attractive, even subversive manner. Although the ethics would often
be questionable, at the very least those attempts exist in the realm of adults
who are receptive to argument and counter-argument. To apply the techniques
to children without regard as to their general intellectual and curricular
development is an act of authoritarianism that has no place in a liberal and
such techniques throughout its pages. Religious doctrine is presented as acceptable
fact, contentious issues are left aside, or, if touched upon at all, are compacted
into word-bites that prevent the target audience from discerning the very
real implications behind them.
In line with
the text's ideological aspect even more positive aspects (such as respect
for teachers) are dismissed in favour of the desired standard to which the
current school system is exposed.
"Learning from one another" is an example of the continuing trend to shift
complex issues towards younger and younger age groups while at the same time
reducing the former's complexity to the latter's lower cognitive levels. Thus
it works towards the infantilisation of society.
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