Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The issue of Religious Schools | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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According to Adil Imam”s description, the Arab and Islamic countries were in a deep slumber as they provided extremists with all that they needed to collect money, establish institutions and penetrate into vital positions especially within educational institutions.

Religious schools in Pakistan, as they are known, together with faculties of Sharia, were the cradle for the Afghani Taliban movement. The word &#34Taliban&#34 itself means ”students”, and refers to graduates of religious schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Up until last year, &#34scholarly&#34 institutes in Yemen were supervised by the state until the Yemeni government decided to merge them with official education. They owned a substantial amount of money but they were the front for fundamentalist and partial groups that transformed these schools into what seemed more like political party headquarters, with a palpable influence upon parliamentary elections.

A number of faculties of Sharia and religious universities teach their students their religious sciences but produce students who are ignorant about the issues of life. They may know something relative to Islamic jurisprudence yet know nothing about modern law, which themselves do not contradict Sharia law. Students graduate with no background knowledge of sociology, history or human civilization. They are taught how to memorize, repeat and explain, but their sense of innovation and thinking is non-existent during an era in which Muslims are in desperate need to think for themselves especially concerning recent issues. They need this to enable them to live comfortably in modern society without feeling alienated from it, from its modern technology or from cultural differences. For these reasons, many students have an embedded animosity towards the &#34other&#34, of whom they know nothing about. They continuously study religious issues without trying to understand or have an independent opinion, such as not differentiating between cultural development and deviation.

This is not a generalization. There are Islamic universities that teach their students both the sciences of religion and the sciences of life. They qualify them to work whilst protected by religious thought and cultural awareness. Unlike them, most religious schools, institutes and universities in the Arab world continue the process of graduating students who merely memorize without thought. They fall victims to a state of cultural arrogance and despise other religions and civilizations, the key formula of becoming prey to terrorist ideologies.

We must be frank despite those who will become angry at this truth. The world is rapidly moving and the gap between others and us is increasingly widening. The &#34other&#34 continues to produce as we continue to consume. They plant and we eat, they tailor and we wear. This is the disaster of all disasters.