Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Danger of Misperceptions about Griffith Uni

Published yesterday in the Australian was a second attack on Griffith University and in particular the Islamic Research Unit established by Dr. Mohamad Abdalla. Citing Judge Wall - who has suddenly become an expert both on Islamist influences in the West as well as Islamic extremist theology - the Oz claims that because a donation was made by Saudi Arabia to the centre, that it necessarily follows the centre must be akin to a Pakistani madrassah.
Not only is this an insult to the students who attend Griffith University, but it certainly shows that the Oz considers our universities to be entirely unaccountable when it comes to the content of their teaching. What an outrage to relate any Australian University – with their emphases on critical thinking, academic writing and sound research to madrassahs which are typically based on rote learning at a very elementary level.

Or is this deep insight based on Dr. Mohamad Abdalla’s beard, cap and gown? Is his centre being publicly rejected with the same small mindedness frequently accorded a woman wearing hijab?

Muslim Australians are being encouraged by their leaders and peers to enrol in higher education courses that allow them to expand their knowledge and critically analyse the more modern and extreme teachings that have become a common part of the discourse surrounding Islam. Centres such as the one at Griffith and Melbourne provide an excellent opportunity for such students to continue the long tradition of academic scholarship that existed for centuries prior to the European Renaissance, which established the University system that is universally accepted today, and on which modern Western education is based.

By denigrating such rigorously supervised Islamic centres, journalists and newspapers the likes of Richard Kerbaj and the Oz, run the risk of derailing this necessary step of bringing young Muslim minds into modern academic discourse. If they are denigrated along with their mainstream Australian institutions, they may very well be driven into studying in a Pakistani madrassah instead.

Irfan Yusuf has very capably delivered a very good read with his usual witty sense of humour – for a good read - Planet Irf