Thursday, April 17, 2014
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Whither Islamic education in Malaysia ?

Media Monitor


media2Islamic educator, Salah Salman:

“A secular society is not a godless society. It is a society that respects pluralism and the peaceful coexistence of those for whom faith is a fundamental part of life, and those who reject religion.”

CPI Introduction

In his conclusion on the rise in Islamic education in Malaysia which appeared in the New Mandala website, Azmel Tayeb, a PhD student at the College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University reminded that

“All things considered, Islamic education remains an irrevocable part of the Malaysian society and will continue to be a hotly contested ground for unforeseeable time as the struggle to shape the minds and save the souls of young Muslims wages on.”

The models for Islamic education in Malaysia have always come from the Middle East, South Asia and other Islamic nations and societies. But should this be the case?

In the article below, the CPI looks at a possible model from Australia. This is a good example of a multiracial and multi-religious society from which there is much we can learn.

The article by Randa Abdel-Fattah demystifies the values and practices of Australia's Islamic schools, of which she was a pioneering student. In her words:

"I graduated from St Clement of Rome Primary School in Melbourne in 1989. I was one of a small number of Muslim students, but my parents didn't feel there was any contradiction in my attending a Catholic school; they considered I would be exposed to shared values. For high school, my parents decided I would attend King Khalid Islamic College of Victoria (KKICV), Australia's first Islamic school. My mother was a senior teacher at KKICV when I started.

"Established in 1983 by parents in the community, the original site was an old, partially burnt-down Catholic school. There were 64 students. By the time I started in 1991, the student body had risen to a modest 328 students, and I was in the school's first Year 7/8 class. There were about 40 of us, and we were the entire high-school student population. There was an overwhelming sense of expectation and excitement. We were pioneers, not just in our school, but in Australia's Muslim community

Esma Kurt was part of that first cohort… Our Muslim and non-Muslim teachers (the latter comprising at least half the staff, in accordance with the school’s policy) reinforced that we were to embrace our Australian identity and Muslim faith with pride….

My mother, Mona Abdel-Fattah, is principal of the Sydney campus and believes one of the defining characteristics of Islamic schools is the multicultural composition of students and staff. The school population represents more than 23 ethnic groups. “Everybody sees the students’ multi-layered identities as an advantage and a cause for celebration,” says Abdel-Fattah. We are a school that actively values our students’ identities.”….

Salah Salman has been director of AIA’s Coburg, Melbourne campus since 1991 and has been instrumental in driving the school’s growth and aspirations. “Living in a pluralistic society can be challenging, especially for young people who are exposed to a diversity of belief and value system, he says. “Such exposure is what makes this country so rich and wonderful, but it can be confusing. Faith based schools are conscious of these challenges and can help children understand what they believe and why.”

Religious freedom, including the right to faith-based schooling, is guaranteed in Australia under international law. But it’s not simply about exercising one’s rights. Salman argues that Australia as a whole benefits when it respects freedom of religion. “A secular society is not a godless society. It is a society that respects pluralism and the peaceful coexistence of those for whom faith is a fundamental part of life, and those who reject religion.”

For the full article on ‘The ups and downs of Islamic education in Malaysia ’, see the New Mandala.


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