This is such a huge topic and any RE teacher who is currently teaching Islam will no doubt be feeling nervous about the potential discussions that could arise in the classroom.
We have been taught and trained to handle these situations and “create the right environment” for our students to discuss Islam and it’s theology. However, the Islam that the GCSE would have us teach never actually deals with contentious issues. It papers over them in an attempt to perform the function of “community cohesion”.
So we find ourselves being told to teach about Islam only ever as a peaceful religion and teach Jihad as directly linked to the greater Jihad (personal struggle) rather than the lesser.
I have a problem with this. I believe it perpetuates the stereotypes even more because we are not giving our students an honest, open space to discuss the theology in Islam which is causing so much disruption in our world.
More increasingly than ever I see people quoting parts of the Qur’an on sites like Facebook, highlighting that there are parts that need discussion. This usually then leads to comments which are inappropriate and misguided.
When we discuss the Bible, we don’t shy away from its tough parts such as the book of Job or its strict laws on homosexuality. We break it down, we contextualise it, we talk about cultural relativism and whether or not these texts still have a place in society today. So why do we not do this with the Qur’an?
Are we afraid as teachers due to a lack of confidence with this particular holy book? Or are we scared of the controversy surrounding it?
We are doing a great injustice by ignoring the contentious issues in the Qur’an. Our students know it contains verses actively used by terrorists. It is the elephant in the room. We try to steer them away from this discussion with talks of peace and the inner struggle for Allah.
I would argue that the whole of society would gain a greater understanding of the ISIS demands and thought processes if they took the time to conduct the same exegesis on the Qur’an as we do on the Bible. So therefore, I think it is only necessary that we do deal with these texts with our students.
The aim would not be to take away the parts of peace and love from the religion, but to also acknowledge the parts which cause issues for us today.
ISIS are inherently Muslim. To the letter almost. Their practices and beliefs are tied up in the Qur’an literally. They believe that they are emulating the Prophet Muhammad’s actions during the early wars in Islam. The idea of the Caliphate is a Muslim idea. To shy away from this fact means that we are papering over the cracks and not giving our students all of the details they need to make a rational, informed decision themselves.
I don’t like to do injustice to any religion and especially one that is being discussed at great lengths by the whole of society, yet with very few who seem to actually have knowledge about it.