A video has recently emerged on YouTube containing footage from an Islamic School in the United Kingdom; the footage indicates that the school is openly teaching hate and prejudice towards other religions.
What makes matters even worse, is the fact that the school had originally been created and sponsored by the government under the condition that it would be a religiously Islamic school that taught tolerance, love, and acceptance of all other religions.
Indeed, this is a step that is extremely necessary in world where terrorism and terrorists have robbed Islam of any chance at being perceived as anything other than intolerant, racist, and sexist.
It is important to make a distinction between two existing factions of Western society, when it comes to perceptions surrounding Islam. On one hand, there is a faction of society that understands that Jihadists and terrorists represent a mere radical articulation of the Quranic text and Prophet Mohammed’s teachings.
On the other hand, there is a large faction of society that views Islam as fundamentally and ideologically a religion premised on violence, intolerance, and hate. This latter faction has come to grow in the West, especially after the rise of terrorist activities in cities like Paris and London; and after the consequential rising popularity of right – wing political parties in the West.
All this functions to legitimize the need to build a publicly funded Islamic school with a curriculum that teaches acceptance, especially in a society that is as multicultural as the United Kingdom’s.
Although I personally think that the hate and intolerance that turned out to be the main curriculum taught at this school does not represent Islam, I am tired of saying this. Almost as much as I am tired of hearing it being said by moderate Muslims and Imams, everywhere around the world and in Egypt.
More than saying needs to be done. We cannot blame a West that views Islam as intolerant, when all we do is simply talk. And yes, I mean that. All we do is simply talk.
The truth is once a terrorist attack takes place, or once news of this school reaches a place like Egypt, mainstream moderate Muslims, and institutions like El Azhar will go out of their way to say that this does not represent Islam, but the truth is that the hatred has already been planted by the Islamic School, and/or the terrorists have already detonated a bomb.
The gravity of the actions taking place in the name of Islam, is not met with any equal gravity of actions to change the image that has already been created of Islam.
Consider, for example, El Azhar’s – Egypt and the Islamic world’s main educational institution located in the heart of Cairo – most recent Facebook post announcing that “all those Muslims who are open about eating in Ramadan are infidels, that they are insolent, and that they are infringing open the personal freedoms of fasting Muslims.”
While I understand that this is a religious ruling that has perhaps existed for hundreds of years, why is it necessary to say this now? Pedagogical organizations like El Azhar – and this Islamic School in the United Kingdom – need to understand the weight and sensitivity of their words.
This is an especially true prospect for El Azhar: once you accept a role as an influential state actor, you need to play the political game, and a political game in a country where extremism and intolerance has become mainstream, does not surely look like making announcements that declare faction of Egyptian society counts as insolent infidels.
If I am a Muslim woman who is not fasting, and decided to stop at a store to buy a bottle of water, am I an infidel? If I am by the rule of El Azhar an infidel, isn’t there a possibility that killing me will be justified by the extremists that exist everywhere around us?