Sunday, February 03, 2008

COMMENT: co-owner teaches course on Islam ...

In late 2000, I made a conscious decision. I decided I would stop giving any presentations about Islam. Yes, I'd be happy to talk about Muslims, their cultures and even their history. I still occasionally delivered "train-the-trainer" (TTC) presentations. But I stopped talking about theology.

What brought this about? Basicaly, what happened was that the fellow who used to sit through my sessions found he was no longer able to do so. I used to deliver short talks in the Auburn Gallipoli Mosque covering various aspects of the biography of the Prophet. I used various source books to di this. I was lucky to have had a qualified imam looking after me. And yes, a really qualified imam (as opposed to someone claiming to be qualified yet refusing to be up front about his credentials).

Talking about theology is a difficult thing to do. I don't mind talking and writing about Muslims. I don't mind talking and writing about the cultures practised by various Muslim communities. But please don't ask me to talk about hadith or seerah or something like that.

It's great to see not everyone has the same scruples as me. It's good that the teaching of Islam is spreading far and wide. So it's interesting that we now see software engineer and businessman Ahmed Kilani running a course on Islam for the St George & Sutherland Community College.

Ahmed Kilani has been involved in various initiatives within Sydney's Muslim communities for some years now. He authorised the electoral material of AusMET, the Australian Muslim Electoral Taskforce. He is also co-proprietor of the website (now known as Muslim Village).

Mr Kilani played quite a prominent role as arch-defender of Sheik Tajeddine Hilaly during the catmeat scandal that rocked Muslim communities. He has been a long-time supporter of Sheik Hilaly even when the latter has made some extraordinarily nutty statements. Given that one of the topics in the course in his course is "women's rights/dresscode", I hope students will not be hearing any references to catmeat.

I also hope that Mr Kilani is able to present a variety of different forms of Islam, including both Sunni and Shia strands. I also hope he does not merely present those interpretations of Islam which he regards as the most 'orthodox'. I also hope he doesn't fall into the trap of treating all Muslims in Australia as a single "community".

It's a great thing that a community college is allowing Mr Kilani this opportunity to remove misunderstanding within the broader community, and it's great to see Mr Kilani taking time out to be part of such a project.

© Irfan Yusuf 2008

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