The changes being introduced at the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) are undoing all the good that its rector had done.
This was the dominant view at a discussion held in Islamabad on social sciences. The discussion, which specially focused on the curriculum changes made at the university, was delayed on two previous occasions.
The speakers were alarmed at the shift in focus at the IIUI, from disciplines such as social sciences and philosophy to Islamic studies.
These changes were introduced after the new pro-chancellor, Dr Sulaiman Abdullah Abal-Khail, took over following the reportedly forced ex-Pakistan leave of IIUI Rector Dr Fateh Mohammad Malik.
Some participants observed that with the changes recently introduced, Abal-Khail is seemingly “hell-bent” on undoing the avenues for critical thought that Malik had fostered within the university.
“This is not a struggle between liberals and right wings, but pursuing scientific experimentation that is integral to the intellectual growth of any university and society,” said Ayesha Siddiqa, the keynote speaker.
She further noted that the strength of any ideology is how it can defend itself against arguments that are pursuant or even antagonistic to it.
A focus on social sciences, therefore, won’t disarm students’ Islamic beliefs or religiosity but give them a nuanced understanding of their faith and religion in context to other beliefs, Siddiqa argued.
A few speakers shed light on how Islam itself calls for rationality and is tolerant of open discourse: thus closing down channels of enlightened thought in the name of the sanctity of Islam is not a valid reason to deflect focus from other disciplines.
Another concern expressed at the discussion was how can the university’s academia be expected to stand in the global world given the “radical” reforms that the IIUI is going through.
Tariq Ijazi, an assistant professor at the IIUI, said that both IIU Pakistan and Malaysia were established together 26 years earlier.
However, due to structural disparities between the two countries, the Malaysian IIU is doing leaps and bounds better than its Pakistani counterpart.
Ijazi attributed Pakistan lagging back to its heavy political agenda and blindly following Saudi policies despite them not being a good fit for Pakistan.
Ahraf Ansari of Radio Pakistan said, “Public universities should always be autonomous bodies but unfortunately IIUI have policies that implement foreign agenda which is stifling to a fertile educational platform.”
Tahir Malik, a professor at the National University of Modern Languages, commented, “Faculty should not be appointed due to political backing but merit; otherwise how can students be expected to aspire to succeed on merit.”
The discussion was organized by Council of Social Sciences, an organisation working to improve the states of the discipline in Pakistan as a whole.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2012.
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