Why is it unacceptable for an American seventh grader to learn about Islam?
I can sit at my computer and read the news about what is happening in a remote shipping village in Australia, or find out about the latest political gaffe in Brazil or discover the new ‘Pineapple Pen’ phenomenon sweeping Japan, all at the convenient click of a button.
Globalisation and the overreaching powers of the internet have made all this possible and stuffed us with information overload. The ability to learn about new cultures, inventions and policies is boundless and never-ending. However, the ability to soak all this knowledge must be matched by a desire to learn. If ignorance, hatred and bigotry block the path to knowledge then globalisation and its benefits cease to exist at all.
Islam, generally in the West, conjures up images of negative connotations like terrorist attacks and indiscriminate killing. Thanks to a fiercely prejudiced media that plays on peoples fears and exacerbates them. Mentioning anything even remotely Islamic can get Muslims into a whole lot of trouble like being forcibly removed from a plane for speaking Arabic or even sent home from school for making a clock resembling a time bomb.
What is most worrying is when the war against Islam is against something as innocuous as a seventh grade school textbook. This week a Tennessee mother was outraged when her daughter started learning about Islam at her school. Although her daughter opted out of those lessons in which Islam was specifically taught, she received zero marks for refusing to do any of the work assigned to her.
The mother, Michelle Edmisten, then took her moral ‘crusade’ (as the Huffington Post put it) to the Board of Education where she rallied the masses to stand up and ‘take back our families, schools and country’.
My question to Miss Edmisten is: what exactly are you taking back? Diversity? Globalisation? Common sense? How does teaching Islam mean America is devoid of Christian values? People’s irrational fear and boneheadedness never fails to amuse.
The only way to dispel the misconceptions about Islam is to study the religion fervently and carry out a comparative analysis. Learning about it in depth removes preconceived notions about Islam’s predilection towards violence. It also shows that there is a link between all three Abrahamic religions, which cannot be ignored in favour of a purely Judeo-Christian alliance.
A civilised society that thrives on seeking knowledge cannot pick and choose which information it wants to deprive its citizens of. If we are living in this heavily interconnected world, then we will need to make greater efforts at promoting diversity, tolerance and a deeper understanding of people that goes beyond what someone is blaring out the television.
The same logic also applies to Muslim countries which refuse to teach about Christianity or Judaism in schools out of an irrational fear of conversion. The only way barriers can be broken down is by finding some common ground and mutual understanding. This world is increasingly becoming more populous and we will all rub shoulders with individuals from all kinds of backgrounds.
It is therefore imperative that we make the short time we have on this planet more amenable to everyone and not destroy our future generations understanding of this world.