Friday, February 28, 2014

A CURRICULUM FOR ISMA, JAKIM, AND FRIENDS

by Azly Rahman

I have a friendly educational suggestion for Islamic-coalition organisations such as Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) and the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) that are still in need of a platform to base their well-intentioned struggles. I am sure that these groups want the best from all Malaysians - to promote peaceful dialogue.

Of late the debate between ‘liberalism’ and ‘Islam’ seem to be raging; one I believe can be reframed to eliminate the dark aura of antagonism and chart a peaceful path through education.

In 2014, we are at a juncture wherein we cannot afford to waste precious national time to argue endlessly over religious permissibility of this or that such as whether one is allowed to visit another’s house of worship or to give a talk in it. We must come together to resolve these mundane issues of how knowledge and level of competency in cross-cultural and inter-religious understanding ought to be acquired.

Here is our present situation offering a unique predicament to nation-building, as I lamented recently on my Facebook status page:


MALAYSIANS...

BE AFRAID..
BE VERY AFRAID
you have arrived at a 30-million-strong-population juncture
if peace is not your strategy...
multiculturalism is not harnessed beautifully
a sense of malaysian-ness is not cultivated with deep honesty
politicians do not stop these fights that have gone off-tangent nauseatingly
education is not your top priority
safety of your citizens is only a lip service handled gleefuly
feeding, clothing, and housing the poor is not an agenda taken seriously
making sure race and religious bigotry is dealt with harshly and legally
the lost and dispossessed youth is not paid attention to educationally
the corrupt, the white collar robbers and the politician-thieves amongst you not put behind bars justifiably
the nation is going to go down the drain, definitely
as law and order breaks down
violence from race and religion rise with great intensity
and we shall all end up as hutus and tutsis
in a malaysian zimbabwe waiting for the powerful empires
to create peace and stability, in a new form of global slavery
as what happened to the pakistanis and the iraqis
or another thailand and myanmar we think will never be part
of our domino theory ... - ar

Teaching tolerance

How do we begin looking at possibilities in education, to arrive at a society better equipped to manage conflict that may escalate to dangerous levels especially in the area of religion?

Malaysians students, blessed with tens of millions strong people of diverse faith and cultural belief systems, can benefit tremendously from this common practice in understanding others. I have used this assignment in every class on comparative philosophies/religions that I have taught. America is a wonderful place to teach these kinds of courses and to have ethnographic studies like this a part of the components of the evaluation/assessment.

But there is no reason why this should not work in Malaysia, if we are to be true to our calling as transcultural educators trying to help the next generation of our citizens to understand each others' practices, frame our understanding in a cognitive/intellectual way and in the process strengthen our  practices by enriching ourselves with the beauty of understanding multiple worldviews, through multiple ways of knowing, and through researching on the philological, philosophical, sociological, and phenomenological understanding of religions and cultural belief systems. It should be a beautiful learning experience. Here is a description:

II. HOUSE OF WORSHIP REPORT (15 pages excluding appendix), 3 per group

PROJECT DESCRIPTION: ‘From Scripture to Social Practice’

1. Choose a house of worship (church, temple, synagogue, masjid, etc) in New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia, etc. It must be one you have never been into.
2. Get in touch with the manager. Arrange for a visit.
3. Prepare an interview protocol (guided questions) that meet the needs of the research project. Understand the ethics of visiting (what to say, what to wear, do’s and don’ts, etc. We'll have a group session by believers of each faith we choose to research on)
4. Visit the site. Describe its appearance, location, visitors, inside and outside, and other physical features. Ask permission to take pictures.
5. Record the interview or take note of the main points of the interview.
6. Sit in a talk/sermon/khutbah, ritual, informal discussion, etc.
7. Meet with your group to analyse the data (interview, photos, descriptions, etc.).
8. Write the report. Use the MLA/APA style for citation.
9. Edit your group report till near perfection. Check the components. You will be graded as a group based on a rubric for Ethnographic Reports.
10. Discuss your experience in a group mini seminar.

I hope this suggestion for a curricular activity can be shared widely with educational institutions wishing to find peaceful solutions to religious misunderstandings. I hope organisations such as Isma and Jakim will take note. So will individuals such as Ridhuan Tee who have all the good intentions but all the wrong approaches.


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dr. Azly:

I think, if it were possible, you should ask at least one group to do their study in Malaysia, say during a semester break. This, I think, is particularly important so we can get a comparative look at the differences between the expectations of people of the same religion in the USA and here in Malaysia.

In particular, I am referring to the Muslim expectation here, that the deck must be cleared of all other references to Allah on their behalf. In other words the curricula of the Muslims does not include critical thinking and comparative theology, so much so that the mere exposure to other theologies will confuse them. In other words, strong governmental controls must be placed on others so that they do not have to equip themselves to develop the apologetics surrounding their own religion.

I believe in all other countries, USA included, the Muslim has to develop his knowledge and understanding of his own religion in the face of the existence of other religions without official help to isolate him from external influences. In this way the Muslim develops critical skills that are needed in any realm of knowledge, so as to be convicted of his own faith and capable of fending off assaults in the form or other religions or philosophies.

My take therefore is that this mother-hen tactics in Malaysia, far from developing a generation of Muslims able to stand on their own feet, have indeed weakened them to be able to stand only when no one else has anything different say. And, having been weakened, they still have to face the rest of the world, where no official suppression of other religious thought or practice is even remotely possible. In other words what JAKIM is doing damages the prospect of the Malaysian Muslim's ability to withstand "competition" and is therefore self-defeating.

In other words can your coursework be tuned slightly to determine if any of the houses of worship feels that its worshippers can only survive if they are mother-coddled to ward off all "other" influences?

Thanks.

Kaypohchee

Anonymous said...

1/2

There is this sadness … one is not asked to be born as one of the majority race because in retrospect, when venturing beyond a wonderful family, outside - there is a massive dosage of poison a day - in - day - out through the decades the indoctrination of race supremacy, insanity of status, overly religious aka being disrespectful to believers of other faith; prejudice, discrimination, suspicion and indifference towards the minorities, the indigenous natives in Malaysia as well as neglecting the poor Malays in the rural areas.

Usher in the unity as a Malaysian race to heal where there is injustice, to look out for each others as own community and family, for the Malays demonstrating the Muslim faith instead.

Malaysians can be bizarre. Many Malays, Indian and Chinese employees and employers in the workplace need to shed one particular inefficiency – politicking, favoritism and gossiping, at times, willing to collaborate to lie and make new good employees of good principles and practices regardless of race - leave their leadership positions. Hence it is not mindboggling to engage expat employees to apply the same standard of principles, the best practices and expectations within and across the board effectively.

And the apathy of the middle class Malaysians regardless of race if left unchecked and balanced by selves, it might leave the overindulgent youth feeling somewhat detached from reality and responsibility which will indirectly affect the family inevitably somehow whilst their long - distant poor cousins and elderly feel powerless living amid impoverished conditions.

Be it having day care centers, retirement homes or pasar pagi / malam in the housing areas. One thing for sure the average Indians and Chinese and with pride, I would proudly say nearly all the Malay community will welcome such set-ups in their neighborhood as there are benefits to the human spirit; help provide solutions together instead of complaining, practicing exclusion and shutting others out to live in utopia and the plants when adult children and their offspring have migrated abroad.

I honestly dread thinking about the loneliness of the elderly in New York, London, Melbourne, Seattle, Paris, Dublin being transported waay back to the well - kept neighborhoods in the cities of Malaysia. No ?

This has to go in Bolehland and worldwide as there is nowhere too safe to be free from social problems caused by discrepancy of policies and indifference of human beings.

Anonymous said...

2/2

However, it evokes such quiet pride and deep admiration and hopes when Malays in the statue of Dr. Azly Rahman - brilliant, yet remain true, committed, utmost sincere and humble ( a norm likeable character among the educated in western countries ) decisively choose to make immense differences in the lives of fellow Malaysians through their profound writings, immense positive actions, deeds and lifestyle as in you get what you see, read and hear from the teaching of ones’ faith.

Otherwise it is as good as religion or faith as some without a religion, would like us to think, faith is redundant or selfishly inclined.

Let’s reflect more here - the true humility, compassion and justness of faith in bringing healing to a neighborhood, a community, a nation and a world of hurts.

All youth with good intentions, peace, intelligence or talents, awesome passion, fresh aspirations and diligence should be directly supported with good finance and tools to work alongside mature people with integrity and work / life experiences by as many rich people who loves his / her country and communities in bringing good sustainable transformation and equality to all human beings.

As such, Dear Dr. Azly, I have your phenomenal books in our family library – read and reread by extended young family members, hopefully we will be inculcated with similar outstanding values for a better Malaysia, to be better Malaysians globally in contributing immensely to host communities , and when returning to home country - Tanahair kita for an extended visit to contribute immensely to its economy. Hopefully these positive values will translate into positive differences in diminishing ones’ prejudice as well as to salvage the legacy of muhibbah spirit and looking out for others left by our forefathers and grandparents.

Regrettably, it is so embarrassing, buat malu aje to be misled by the heading, “ Malaysia Day 2013 : Tanahairku – The Flashmobs ” to watch its video clip up to about a minute when the mind begins to hurt that the significant fellow Malaysians are intentionally left out in the celebration. Real sempit pemikiran hanya setakat bergaya dengan branded pakaian. Anything that requires the branding of Malaysia for national celebrations, festivals, expeditions, etc must consist of an equal number of representatives of all Malaysians, otherwise it is clearly a huge mistake and narrow-mindedness.

It looks like it is now case - by - case of exceptions and a great community of people who care to respect others, to enlighten the burdens of others, to reciprocate positive deeds in demonstrating self- family - community dignity in Malaysia.
Being deafened by the shouting of , “ earn your respect ” ? Isn’t it somewhat an apathy and absolutely crazy when there are young urbanite Malays ( initially from the rural areas, but with education and success, entitlements come along ) retort that parents should earn their respect ( ?! ) ( how about when you become parents someday ) good educators and adults, but definitely expected from political leaders to convince our votes on election day.

Being individualistic in creating good values, but individually unite with others in meaningful friendship and neighborliness in Malaysia. Or you are welcome to purchase affordable properties or check into the uber expensive nursing homes in New York, Vancouver and London to retire and bid adieu in loneliness.

Yes ? The life changing decision is yours.





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