Thursday, July 19, 2012

“World religions course” letter published in the Daily Dawn on September 01, 2008 (Feedback) 

I ENDORSE most of the curriculum recommendations made by Prof Anjum James Paul (Aug 28).
I would suggest one change though. Instead of developing different courses for minorities and Muslims, the subject of Islamic Studies should be replaced by a ‘World Religions’ course so that all students, Muslims and non-Muslims, will learn about all major religions in the same classroom. The students must also study the subject of Ethics which could be part of World Religions course.
Erroneous statements that put down contributions of minorities or their beliefs must be removed from our textbooks on Pakistan Studies/Islamic Studies and honest, truthful statements should replace them, if needed.
I have taught Physics at a university in America for nearly 17 years. Their World Religions class was the most exciting class that students looked forward to. The professor had the insight and vision to invite professors from each faith and request them to talk to his class about their faith and answer students’ questions. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism were generally discussed by the followers of these faiths.
Every year, I was invited to speak about Islam. The students had to first study the English translation of the complete Holy Quran by an Egyptian scholar and prepare any questions. I told the students I would try to answer their questions to the best of my ability and understanding of Islam being a follower of this great religion, though I was not a religious scholar by training. They were appreciative, listened carefully and enjoyed the beauty of Islam and the logic of its injunctions.
At times, my husband was also invited so that students could understand the Muslim family life. After the first time I spoke, the next day I received in the mail 40 ‘Thank you’ letters from students. Each letter stated what the student did not know before but learnt from my talk. This was a great surprise for me and also a feedback to do even better next time. From then on, such letters followed every talk.
I am now on a contract to teach at a university in Pakistan. How I wish my country would adopt and encourage such an open attitude to other religions and let our students learn about the beauties of all major religions and not restrict them to just Islam.
Our students will learn that all religions have a common theme: they all inspire their followers to do well and be good. We will be helping our students to remove some of the hatred that our biased books and extremist mullahs have taught them. I invite all educated people to join me in the demand for a “World Religions” course to be taught to our students, at least at the university level.

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