Educationists in the West are presently in the middle of a intense debate about purpose and means of providing education. YUSUF AL-KHABBAZ argues that this provides an opportunity for Muslims...
They opened fire with cannons and bombs on the houses and quarters, aiming specially at the mosque, firing at it with those bombs. They also fired at suspected places bordering the mosque, such as the market. And they trod in the mosque with their shoes, carrying swords and rifles. Then they scattered in its courtyard and its main praying area and tied their horses to the prayer niche They ravaged the students' quarters and ponds, smashing the lamps and chandeliers and breaking up the bookcases of the students and the scribes.
There is also a problem between dichotomizing between Islamic and Western, since many Muslims, for all intents and purposes, are following the modern Western lifestyle, including in their expections of what purpose schools should serve. So, is it the job of an Islamic school to teach Islamic to non-Muslims?
While there are growing global discussions about the role of education in people’s lives, most ongoing discussions focus on children and schools. In many cases, the role of adults and the family in education is neglected or marginalized in these discussions. Part of this problem, perhaps, stems from a general misunderstanding of education, which is most often equated with merely going to school. An important first step, therefore, is to make clearer distinctions between education and schooling.
Education is about a process of becoming, and so the education one seeks is a crucial factor in what one will become. However, it is also important to broaden the definition of education beyond formal schooling, to include all the informal ways we learn. In this context, Islamic education is the process of becoming a Muslim, which can include learning a vocation or various forms of abstract knowledge, but first and foremost it is becoming a Muslim.
Despite the current socio-political tensions between the Islamic and Western worlds, there is a largely unquestioned allegiance on the part of many Muslims to the normative modes of thought and action associated with Western modernity. Since the days of gaining limited independence from direct colonialism after World War II, most discussions on education in the Muslim world have been concerned with seeking empowerment in the modernist world system.
With the increasing American colonial presence in the Muslim world, beginning with the 1991 war against Iraq and gaining momentum on the heels of 9/11 with recent invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been numerous efforts aimed at reforming school curricula and revising textbooks. From Saudi Arabia to Indonesia, American officials have been pressuring local governments to eliminate anything that the Americans say promotes “violence and terrorism.”
Schooling is a relatively new phenomenon in human history, really only extant for about a century in most of the world, less in some places and more in others, but relatively new. It is an institutional response to several social needs, such as the need for social order, the need for acquiring marketable skills, the need for passing down one or another state ideology or identity.
There is an effort afoot all over the world to "reform" education. The overall message is "west knows best, we lead and you follow." More specifically, practically everyone in the West has realized that the old factory schooling system they have been using for a hundred years is obsolete intellectually. Socially, the move away from government to corporate control calls for privatization.
The idea of "knowledge is power" has well served the Western world elite over the centuries, and some of the most brutal wars have been fought to protect its exclusivity. It still underwrites the international system of recolonization we are calling Western development. But this just makes it more difficult to see why Bacon's dictum is today splattered all over the mental environment.
NON-WESTERN EDUCATIONAL TRADITIONS: ALTERNATIVE APPROACHES TO EDUCATIONAL THOUGHT AND PRACTICE
Even the most casual observers of current events will notice a tension between Western civilization and Islam. This tension is often made explicit in Western public discourse about "Islamic fundamentalism" and the "clash of civilizations." Similarly, Muslim public discourse often focuses on the Zionist occupation of Palestine and the destruction of places like Bosnia and Iraq.
There is in Malaysia a truly George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four scenario. There is an ‘Anti-Corruption Act’ to nab those who complain about corruption; an Institute of Islamic Understanding to promote an orientalist version of Islam; non-Muslims advising the Muslims how to reform Islam, else Islam will `die off’ due to its failure to change with the time...
We must, however, guard against the misuse of religion to hamper the innovative spirit of man or to allow its advocates to brandish it as a weapon stifle any new idea or to cripple scientific enquiry. It is enough for the society to be deeply religious and for the scientist to be so inspired to ensure that he would not step out of line or to misuse science as to impinge on the province of religion.