CAIRO: Islamic scholars have said they support President Hosni Mubarak’s appeal to Muslims to counter the ferocious attack on Islam. And goes even further to say it is the responsibility of every Muslim to educate others about their religion.
The Muslim world is facing a ferocious attack, describing Islam wrongly and offending Muslims sacred [symbols and figures] and beliefs, Mubarak said in his Thursday speech marking Laylat Al-Qadr, a holy night at the end of Ramadan.
According to Sheikh Mahmoud Ashour, former Al-Azhar deputy and current member of the Islamic Research Center, the actions of Muslims – sometimes violent – are contributing to the deterioration of Islam’s image in Europe and North America.
The West must be able to differentiate between Muslims opinions and actions as individuals and Islamic ideology, he told The Daily Star Egypt.
Ashour also stated that practical implementation of Mubarak’s cultural engagement initiative requires Muslims to begin dialogue with the peoples of different Western countries and not their governments.
The media is our number one tool, Ashour said, and added that Al-Azhar scholars should learn the language of the West and produce programs and articles in English explaining Islam. These would then be aired on foreign language local and cable TV networks and printed in their newspapers.
In his speech on Thursday, Mubarak also stressed the importance of updating and upgrading existing teaching methodologies for religion.
Isn t it the time for a new religious discourse that teaches people the correct things in their religion … and promotes the values of tolerance against those of extremism and radicalism? he said.
Mariam Motasem, an editor for the Islam Online website and forum recently traveled to Denmark, the site of last year’s Prophet Mohamed cartoon controversy, at the request of a Danish human rights organization.
She told The Daily Star Egypt there is a fundamental lack of objective material available to Danes curious to learn about Islam or to counter negative stereotypes of Muslims.
Motasem believes that interactive exchange programs and intellectual discourse between Islamic countries and the West are the only means for communication to improve cultural and social ties between the two spheres.
Ashour says Muslim youth may hold the key in any cultural exchange initiative by serving as examples. Schoolteachers and mosque preachers should act as models to youngsters in their actions.
The way religion is taught in schools, with a focus on memorizing texts rather than understanding them, may also be part of the problem.
“Arabic teachers are the ones who teach religion in schools and usually use the class time to teach Arabic language instead. And students end up memorizing Islamic texts a few days before the exam, Ashour said.