Racism has been a hot topic lately, both in the general media and on this site. Racism is one form of intolerance, religious intolerance is another. Last night I did not get to watch Q&A, but I happened to notice a tweet about no scripture in schools. I quickly backed that up. As regular readers will know, I am strongly against religious instruction in government schools. I’ve written quite a few articles (links below) expressing my opinion of religions. I much prefer Cultural Intelligence and ethics education. I believe these have far more relevance to the human species. I recognise, perhaps unlike Richard Dawkins, that we cannot yet stop people believing in myths, the human race has not yet evolved sufficiently. We do, therefore, need to learn to accept and be tolerant of religious beliefs and include discussion of religions, ALL religions, in Cultural Intelligence education. This includes, Australian Financial Review I am talking to you, respecting Aboriginal culture when it comes to reporting the passing of Aboriginal people in the media.
We are tolerant every day in our home, so I do have considerable experience.
Back to Twitter last night! Another person, a teacher, chimed in and said the book being discussed was NOT scripture, but “a resource on integrating cultural perspectives into KLA’s, it’s not a book on religion studies.” I asked for a link to the material. The teacher very kindly provided the link and today I downloaded the document, Learning from One Another.
I also wanted to see the context in which this had come up for discussion, so I went to YouTube, that wonderful store of stuff one has missed, and watched the Q&A episode from last night.
You will find* the offending question at 43:15. I say offending because it is worded offensively. Very offensively. I have added the emphasis below.
“Why are we giving Islam preferential treatment? Why are we promoting to our children a CRUEL CULTURE which has nothing but contempt for our democracy?”
I have read a lot of the book. Not all of it, as I am not a teacher and incorporating tessellating patterns into the mathematics classroom is a little beyond me. However I’ve read enough of the book to understand the purpose. The purpose of this book is, I agree, to foster cultural understanding. The book is not about converting the student population to Islam. I found Parts B and C of the book very interesting and I am sure the teachers at my children’s schools, if they are not already aware of the book, may find it of interest too.
I was interested to learn of the scientific and medical developments originating from Islamic scholars. I was surprised to learn in some forms of Islam birthday celebrations and music are not as welcome as I had thought. Birthdays and music are both important to my family: as always religion is often adapted by local culture. Yes there are, as with Christianity, many forms of Islam.
On the question of democracy, I quote from the book in question:
While many Muslim states across the world do not adopt democracy, the Quran actually orders
Muslims to engage in consultation (shura) in order to run their daily affairs. The system of shura
is somewhat similar to democracy. However, many Muslims still live under authoritarian regimes
and/or believe that democracy is the product of the West and should be dismissed.
As for the cruel culture aspect of the above question, Learning from One Another does not avoid the question of terrorists, but it does outline Islamic beliefs: “Islam orders Muslims to be kind and friendly to all people as long as they mean no harm. Even if they mean harm, the Quran urges Muslims to respond in a kinder manner.” As I have said before, Mr O always says, “Do not kill what you cannot create.”
I am at a loss to understand how the woman asking the question on Q&A could see this book as “promoting” Islam or giving Muslim children preferential treatment. Some schools have student populations where 10% of the students are Muslims. We have Muslims living in Australia and our education system must be able to relate to the children and their parents in an inclusive and understanding manner. We need to understand each other if we are to live together harmoniously. I hope she is never a teacher of any of my children. The question came from Kia Thorpe. Kia is a political candidate. I am horrified.
*I did not shorten the video, because the question of racism was dealt with most gracefully by Linda Burney. I encourage all who watched the 13 year-old + Eddie issues in the media to watch the early part of the program as well.