Sunday, May 13, 2012

The benefit of a traditional religious education.

Some people think I'm against traditional religious education -- that's not true! It's a lot like learning how to dance.

I learnt this from my wonderful dance instructor in Grenoble, who gifted me my first experience of contemporary dance. He taught us that to be able to move freely, you first have to learn the classics -- only then can you depart from form. We had to learn classical ballet, not necessarily for us to all become ballerinas, but so that we would not move in preconceived ideas of dance rooted in ballet.

Traditional religious education is not to be discounted, because it is a good grounding in hegemonic discourse. It is important to know what most Muslims around the world know, because it helps to create a shared cultural history with others. It also helps to create a point of departure for other kinds of religious education.

I'll give some examples of how I experienced a shared referential consciousness with Muslim women from different parts of the world.


A few months ago I was talking to a friend from Central Eastern Africa about how the Muslims in her country adapt their traditional dress to the requirements of hijab, and we had a great discussion about social norms and sensibilities about how much flesh non-hijabi women could show without everyone freaking out about it.

She mentioned an acquaintance in school who wears the headscarf, and commented that it was strange that she wore a 'bump' at the back of her head -- because that was haram.

I was taken aback, this was a bump from her natural hair, how else was she supposed to wear it? I rather thought that if you were going to take a hair-bump that as a sign of the inhabitants of hell, you had to pick on a more "camel-hump" looking bump.

But actually that isn't my point. My point is that we came from different regions, countries, and cultural backgrounds, but I knew why had made such a judgment on our friend's headscarf. We had both been taught a lesson on morality and how to dress, by religious teachers or elders in our communities, based on this hadith(Although I only heard about this in the last three years or so, I seem to have heard about it in time!)

Another incident happened about six years ago. I was studying in France and was extremely pleased to have met a girl from West Africa. We were talking about dogs and she said that at home, if she touched a dog, she was taught that she should wash her hands with earth and water. When I told her that yes, that is a religious requirement (this was me six years ago!). She marveled at how we had learnt the same things, even though she didn't know whether this was a cultural or religious practice in her country.

Indeed, even now I still marvel at how we learn the same things, even though we don't know if it is a cultural or religious practice.

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...