Monday, November 24, 2008

COMMENT: Village idiots issue black-cheque fatwas ...

Some two decades ago, a respected elder named Syed Kandil used to publish a newsletter from Canberra. In one editorial, he used the term "blank cheque fatwa" to describe the judgments of self-proclaimed imams who spoke on topics beyond their expertise.

An excellent source of black cheque fatwas is the Muslim Village forums. Here, you will find many a self-proclaimed imam and his supporters issuing all kinds of fatwas about matters beyond their understanding.

Let's start with Islamic studies, an academic discipline taught in universities across the world. Melbourne University, along with the University of Western Sydney and Griffith University, recently set up a National Centre for Excellence in Islamic Studies. You can find out more about the NCEIS from their first newsletter here.

Islamic studies is not the same as studies in a madressa or in a darul uloom, though there can often be some overlap. Rather, Islamic studies is an inter-disciplinary subject that focuses on a range of issues related to a nebulous (for want of a better term) "blob" of peoples, cultures, histories, theologies, languages etc etc which is often given the label of "Muslim" or "Islamic" or "Islam".

Similar subjects are taught in relation to other "blobs". Hence there is Jewish studies, Christian studies, Buddhist studies, American studies, Middle East studies etc etc. A Christian studies course at Harvard or Macquarie is not the same as a course at Moore Theological College, nor is it meant to be.

Yet repeatedly black cheque fatwas are issued by MV mass debaters about the NCEIS, its personnel, its subjects etc. A classic example of this is a remark by Olive Tree which can be read here, who seemed to be taking credit on behalf of ...

... the Muslim students and community members [who were the ones complaining ...

... about a course taught last year by one Dr Samar Habib, whom s/he accused of having a ...

... personal and political agenda ...

Olive Tree then suggested:

It is not an issue of harming academic freedom but a realisation that they probably should be seeking proper Islamic studies lecturers similar to that of Griffith University and Melbourne University.
Yet the same course Olive Tree complains of was also taught at Melbourne University, with not a single complaint made by any student. Was all this talk really about the course?

Olive Tree then delivers the killer blow.

I attended the Ramadan Iftar with my sister this year. All these so called lecturers from the Islamic Studies Dept at UWS were no-where to be seen. No- where!
Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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