A welcome display of sanity. But to lay the foundation for a genuinely tolerant society, teachers and texts will need to deal with the legacy of dhimmitude and Islamic intolerance forthrightly, rather than simply insisting that Islam respects other religions. For example, they will have to deal with Qur’anic references to Jews and Christians as apes and pigs,” and the Qur’an’s assertion that nonbelievers are the “vilest of creatures.” Without that, other preachers can simply come along at a later date and point out to students what their teachers did not address.
From McClatchy Newspapers:
SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq “” Judged solely by one of the big, bold words on its cover,
the book that Fadel Mahmoud clutched in his hands would be considered blasphemous in many
parts of the Muslim world.
Most people in Kurdish northern Iraq believe that the Quran, the holy book of
Islam, is the final word on religious life. Mahmoud and other teachers, however, are preaching a message of religious tolerance in hopes of preserving the region’s relative
The book in his hands is an introduction to Judaism written by an Arab.
Last month, the Kurdish Regional Government’s Ministry of Religious Affairs
began requiring its 19 campuses, from grade school to college, to broaden their curriculums
by including courses on comparative religion that better expose students to other religious
thought, including Christianity and in some cases Judaism.
“We’re trying to reach the point where all the religions can find common ground. We are not interested in talking about the points of disagreement,” said Mahmoud, an instructor at the College of Kurdistan in Sulaimaniyah .
A decade ago, the government of the semiautonomous Kurdistan region shut down the religious madrasas, or schools, run by mosques amid unsettling signs that imams, some from outside the region, were fomenting a brand of Islam that threatened to undo the
fragile peace that reigned here after a 1991 U.S.-backed uprising against Saddam Hussein.
Madrasas in Afghanistan and Pakistan that preach a radical form of Islam have
been a huge concern to the United States , which has accused some of stoking anti-Americanism among the poor, who attend for a free education.
“We the Kurdish people, we believe in a peaceful kind of religion. We want to
live in peace. We are not going to build a foundation for terrorists,” said Sheik Mohamed, the region’s minister of religious affairs.
Mohamed said the ministry’s introduction of a comparative-religion class was
intended to raise broader awareness of the other religions practiced by Kurdistan’s ethnic minorities, which account for about 3 percent of the region’s roughly 5 million people.
“Islam obligates Muslims to respect other religions,” said Najim al Dine Kader
Raheem , 47, who’s studying at the College of Kurdistan so that he can lead his own mosque
one day. “All of the prophets come from the same place”” ours is Arab”” and we believe in the
Teaching about Jews in a predominantly Muslim country has its risks, conceded
Araz Najmaddin Abdulla, the general director of curriculum for the regional Ministry of Education, which runs the public school system.