IIA Conference – Teaching Islam Panel

Here are my notes from the Teaching Islam Panel. Please keep in mind that this is a stream of consciousness capture of my interpretation of what they had to say. (sorry for the terrible formatting – no time to fix it right now)

diane moore

  • bio
    •     facilitator

    •     ordained minister

    •     position at harvard

    •     teacher at andover

  • need to create a religious literacy
  • same approach in sectarian and non-sectarian approaches
  • 3 hardest subjects to teach for her at graduate, undergraduate,
    and secondary levels
    •     marxism

    •     christianity

    •     islam

      •         because of the deep
        seated cultural assumptions that cause an illiteracy

  • can’t expect that journalists will be our primary educators
    •     we need to educate the public and those that
      will become journalists

  • what is the role of muslims themselves in this debate?
    •     promote public understanding of religion in
      general and islam in particular

    •     shouldn’t only come from muslims themselves

louis cristillo

  • bio
    •     muslims in nyc project coordinator

    •     columbia phd

    •     worked in morocco as educator and director
      of educational program

  • participant at first islam in america conference
  • how are muslims responding to teaching islam and what are some of
    the pedagogic approaches that bear mentioning
    •     associate that with classrooms

    •     focus on private muslim day schools

    •     what aspects of islam are being taught?

    •     what methods are being used to teach muslim

    •     curricular content and pedagogy focus will
      ignore other places where “education” is taking place

      •         tarbiyya (socialization

          where identity will be formed and how people will react on that identity

  • how one community has adapted the teaching of islam to their
    •     in their school proper

    •     extend the tarbiyya to connect with the
      traditional sites of islamic education

      •         home

      •         mosque

  • C7 through early C19
    •     education of islam looked very different

      •         how do you teach a way
        of life

    •     1890’s reform

      •         late ottoman empire was
        instituting radical educational reforms across the empire

      •         teaching of islam is
        taking a modern approach

  • objectification of islam
    •     compartmentalization of knowledge

    •     textbook production

    •     uses of new media

    •     not just a way of life, now it’s an object
      of study

    •     forces essentialization

    •     C7 C19

      •         this was deemed
        unnecessary because Quran and Hadith were the foundation of the

      •         education was taking
        place wherever the transmitter of knowledge was

          sheikh, mu’alim, imam, father, mother, elders

    •     day school problem

      •         how do you teach islam
        and still nurture and islamic identity

  • curricular great divide
    •     muslim day schools, like jewish and catholic
      schools in NY, are mandated to teach the mandated curriculum

    •     English is mandated as the language of

    •     students must parse the different elements
      of secular and religious curriculum

    •     part of the link

      •         you’re a good muslim,
        if you get good grades

      •         academic achievement is
        equated with religiosity

    • creating an islamic environment

    •     subjectification of islam

    •     their way of life

  • muslims in the US 5-7 million
    •     2/3 foreign born

    •     1200-2000 mosques

    •     200 schools

    •     NYC

      •         mosques 140

      •         schools 14

      •         600,000 muslims

      •         diverse communities

    •     economic base for schools comes from
      individuals who fund mosques and sometimes sit on boards of schools

    •     day school enrollment 3500-4000 students

    •     102,000 in nyc public schools

    •     curriculum and structure is greatly
      influenced by state

    •     70% of this particular school faculty are

      •         children in this school
        are mostly lebanese, palestinian, egyptian, yemeni

    •     children are predominantly 2nd generation
      who started in public schools

  • creation of tarbiyya
    •     morning assembly with du’a

    •     after lunch, ablutions and prayer

      •         imam is school principal

          gives a qutba

    •     islamic studies 4/5 afternoons

    •     day is mostly secular, but surrounded by
      religious elements

  • hours by topic
    •     quran and hadith 51.2

    •     faith and worship 24

    •     history18.4

    •     ethics and morals 6

  • arabic as lingua sacra
  • issue of gender
    •     classes and lunches are segragated

    •     social interaction is done gender specific

    •     no gender restriction on teachers,
      professional context isn’t an issue, only when socializing is going on

Marcia Hermansen

  • bio
    •     phd UChicago

    •     professor of Theology

    •     several publications

    •     article how to put the genie back in the
      bottle, identity, culture, . . . .

    •     degree in area studies (arabic and islamic)

    •     american muslim

    •     teaches religious studies curriculum

  • ideas in the academy
    •     take 10 years to get to high school

    •     a generation to trickle down to general

  • teaching Islam, the “academy”
    •     defining the academy

      •         undergraduate and
        graduate public and private institutions

  • representation of islam in programs
    •     muslims are there, but the content isn’t

  • places where covered
    •     religious studies / theology departments

    •     humanities and social sciences

    •     area studies

    •     professional schools law, business, medicine

  • issues
    •     1. representation
      •         insider/outsider
          who is teaching it and what kind of perspective are they teaching?
          sunni muslims are disproportionately underrepresented at her institution

      •         who and where
                8% of student population
                virtually no academic representation

      •         cultural resistance

    •     2. faith
      •         is the academic study
        of religion inimical to faith?
          should it be avoided?
          will it protect muslims from radical influences

      •         the secular paradigm an
        alternative worldview?
          academy or public schools will socialize people into a secular world

      •         confusion between the
        study of religion vs. theologizing or proselytizing

    •     3. epistemology models
      •         1. madrasa
        •             in
          this country typically a short term thing
        •             is
          this an epistemological place?
                not implying particular madrasa, but the idea of
            authentic islamic knowledge as one would find in a madrasa


                free from culture

                “pure” islam (obviously doesn’t exist my input)

      •         2. the
          sayyed hussein nasser
                anti-modern, anti-secular, conservative

                takes truth claims of religions seriously

        •             in
          general, in religious studies this is marginal

      •         3. phenomenological
      •         4. historical/critical
          multiple islams

      •         5. polemic
      •         further elaboration
          muslim academic discourse 1975-2000
          fazlur rahman
                modernize islam

                controversial during his time

          seyyed hossein nasr
                invoke “tradition”

          ismail faruqi
                islamize knowledge

          they worked on texts
          they were strongly influenced by western philosophy

      •         interesting
        contributors in 2000
          khaled abou el-fadl
                liberize islam

                universal norms

          sherman jackson
                culturalist, shari’a norms

                respect specificity

                african american

          share background in islamic law, but doing cultural theory
          book history after 9/11

    •     4. knowledge and power
      •         role of state policy
      •         politicization fo field
      •         study of islam between
        “right” and “left”
      •         are madrasa academic?
      •         should title 6 studies
        be closer surveyed

    •     university textbooks
      •         daniel brown
          new daniel brown says that the qur’an is later

      •         jamal elias social
      •         fred denny
          study muslims using their own terms

      •         karen armstrong
      •         john esposito pluralist
      •         david waines
      •         william chittick hard
      •         fazlur rahman modernist
          assumes background knowledge

      •         syed maududi islamist

    • theory building will be interesting
    • academics will need to speak the language and be able to
      challenge conventional wisdom
    • ayoub question
    • why should we draw a distinction between teaching muslims and
    • religious ignorance of the general population
    • book marshall hodgson’s the venture of islam

Karim H. Karim

  • journalists and their education around Islam
    •     2nd largest global faith

    •     2nd largest faith in America and other
      western countries

    •     are journalists adequately trained to report
      on islam

  • media’s performance
    •     crisis coverage and negative circumstances

    •     good news is no news

    •     something that goes wrong with muslim
      involvement will be reported

    •     approach the media and their discourses as a

    •     not 100% disparraging

    •     people thinking about this subject usually
      have their minds made up

    •     think of training of journalists, task at

    •     classic media research indicated that the
      closer a group acts in accordance with their group’s stereotype,

      •         the more likely that
        they will be on the front page

    •     some core stereotypes about muslims in the
      west have been around for hundreds of years

      •         violence

      •         sex

      •         barbarism

      •         greed

    •     interplay between cultural classics and
      daily media
      •         reinforces and
        buttresses stereotypes

    •     basic lack of knowledge
    •     European journalists tend to be educated in
      the field
    •     Elaine Scolino is a good example of someone
      who takes the time on this side of the ocean
    •     most journalists tend to be deficient
      •         ex. journalist who
        didn’t know what salaam alaykum (used as signature) meant

          called the person Mr. Alaykum because he signed his letter that way

      •         exasperated editor

          put his foot down

          standard spelling of iraq, with a q or an n

    •     ignorance spreads to christians and jews
    •     secularist nature seems to dissuade
      meaningful engagement on religious subjects
    •     often hostility to religious
    •     often non-believers
    •     journalism skills focused on technical
      skills for gathering and imparting
    •     specializations on religion in journalism
      are very rare
    •     most don’t see the study of religion within
      their purview

  • suggestions for training of journalists
    •     journalists need to admit their ignorance of
      the role of religion in contemporary societies

    •     need to understand the value of religious
      symbols in human communication

    •     myth of journalistic objectivity

    •     technical side, without understanding the
      moral turmoil, seems to be the only priority

    •     how to assess the broader dynamics is not
      being covered in journalistic curricula

    •     other departments have a lot to contribute

    •     why are muslims and jews fighting over the
      temple mount?

      •         they don’t understand

    •     what is the significance of the babri masjid
      in india?

    •     understand the weight of history

    •     understanding of exploitation of religious

    •     muslims as exotic people?

      •         take me to your leader

      •         not understanding
        diversity or debates going on

    •     issues of faith are central to society

      •         mainline and
        fundamentalists are all affected

  • the public deserves a much more sophisticated mode of
  • teresa wattanabi is a good example
    •     LA Times

    •     covering Abou el Fadl

  • secular vs. secularism
    •     public sphere of state

    •     anti-stance toward religions

  • response of muslim communities to this media issue
    •     will we look at careers that do these things?

    •     how will a muslim sitcom be received by
      muslims, let alone with non-muslims

    •     to survive, we’ll have to be creative

      •         controversial inside
        and outside of the ummah

    •     north americans in general are open to humor
      and new perspectives

      •         muslims need to be
        appropriately bold

  • unteneble situation for journalists
  • two sources of religious knowledge
    •     sectarian views

    •     media

  • no larger context in which to gain a sophisticated understanding
  • journalists are where we focus because they’re our main source of
    •     maybe this is the problem

  • there is a dominant discourse
    •     look at it as a competition of discourses

  • even when the story is responsible, the accompanying headline or
    picture is alarmist and contrary