Five anti-Muslim protesters and 400 peace supporters meet at New York rally

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 May, 2016 - 16:14

American Bikers United Against Jihad spent months calling for people to join the event in Islamberg, but in the end supporters far outnumbered protesters

A motorcycle group’s plan to “raise awareness” of the threat of homegrown jihad by riding to an all-Muslim New York town backfired on Sunday, when only five motorcyclists showed up. Hundreds of people, meanwhile, flocked to the town to show their support for its residents.

Related: Islamville, South Carolina's all-Muslim town, faces Trump effect: 'We feel unsafe'

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Make corruption history?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 15 May, 2016 - 14:27

A stage in Hyde Park, London, with audience in the foreground. The stage features two live 8 logos of guitars with bodies shaped like Africa with the slogan "One voice to make poverty history" across the top of the stage.Who remembers the slogan “Make Poverty History”? It used to be found on banners on streets, on pamphlets and on the top corners of websites. I remember Bob Geldof trying to get a crowd of people at Hyde Park to chant it at the “Live 8” concert in July 2005, which he envisaged as part of some big protest against the G8 summit that was going on in Scotland, but which the concertgoers saw as just a rock gig. But despite the march of climate change and its consequences, despite the deterioration of human rights and the spread of state-enforced poverty in parts of the world, nobody seems to be talking about how to make poverty history anymore. Instead, we hear a lot of talk about corruption, and a lot of criticism of the cultures of the peoples affected. The latest example is the anti-corruption summit hosted by David Cameron this past week.

Cameron made some noises this past week about a new register of properties owned by foreign companies in the UK (it doesn’t mention individuals, although such people often use front companies based in Crown Dependency tax havens to own properties here) and there has been an agreement by some of Britain’s crown dependencies (though not the British Virgin Islands) to share property registers. It all depends, of course, on legislative approval, where it could easily be watered down, or it could be delayed indefinitely. It’s not only foreigners who use ruses such as offshore companies to hide their assets; British citizens are known to do this as well, likely including some of Cameron’s friends and major Tory donors, and deterring wealthy foreigners from buying property in the UK, however corrupt they are, could result in house prices falling (or at least not rising as quickly as had been expected). You would not get wealthy Tory MPs to vote against their personal interest, as has been seen with bills to raise the standards of rented accommodation.

His own party is also under investigation for overspending on election expenses in numerous constituencies, many of them the marginal seats that made the difference in the 2015 election. Even one of the newly-elected Tory Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), who have to have a clean record even as a juvenile to stand for the position, is under investigation for this offence. The investigations may lead to criminal charges (though not necessarily against the MPs) and it’s been suggested that they could trigger by-elections, possibly endangering Cameron’s majority. It’s not the first time it’s been suggested that a Tory government with a narrow majority may have secured crucial votes through corrupt means: in the 1990s it was revealed that Tory party activists had engaged in “granny farming”, meaning purporting to secure postal votes for old people in retirement and nursing homes, then switching them to proxy votes which they then cast in the Tories’ favour.

Picture of Muhammadu Buhari, a clean-shaven Black African man wearing thick-rimmed black specacles, standing next to a Nigerian flag hanging from a pole.The British establishment (its politicians and media) likes to think it can lecture other nations on corruption despite having benefited from corruption in other countries in the past. Britain’s everyday life isn’t affected by corruption; we do not have to bribe policemen or officials just to get basic business done for example. But there used to be a joke that the reason you didn’t get military coups in the USA was because there was no US embassy there; corrupt rulers in other countries who steal from national banks stash their ill-gotten gains in banks in Europe and the USA. That was tolerated for as long as these régimes suited US and European interests, and when they were overthrown, they were often rescued by their patrons and allowed to take their loot with them, as in the case of the Marcos family when they were outsted from power in the Phillipines in 1986; the Phillipine government has recovered only a fraction of the Marcoses’ loot. Even at last week’s summit, the present Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, demanded that Britain return the money stolen by previous presidents such as Sani Abacha, which presumably is still sitting in London banks. There is a sense that when corruption happens here, it’s little bits here and there and the law will sort it out, even though it often does not, while corruption abroad is blatant, large-scale and vulgar. But we don’t mind the money when it’s spent on luxuries in Knightsbridge. Corruption, like rape, is only ‘real’ when it’s stereotypical and blatant.

As I said at the beginning, we are more interested nowadays in criticising other cultures and less interested in hunger, poverty or political repression. In the last couple of years the Tories, particularly William Hague (who retired as an MP last year), have addressed summits such as the 2014 London “Girl Summit” on such issues as FGM and child marriage and another that year on ending sexual violence in conflict, leading a radical feminist on Twitter to gush that Hague almost sounded like one of them. I have a suspicion that their newfound enthusiasm for women’s rights in other countries in fact has more to do with distracting popular attention from the deteriorating human rights situation, from such things as governments selling huge tracts of land to foreign corporations so as to grow food for export, resulting in the people who live there being forced out, often into barren ‘villages’ set up by the government. It’s that much easier to ignore such things if you think that these are already people who don’t even respect their wives’ and daughters’ human rights.

Significantly, in Hague’s speech on sexual violence, he did not mention the arms trade once; Kaye Stearman of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) observed in 2013 that the last (coalition) government was “much more blatant — quite shameless” about promoting arms exports, while previous governments had done so with some degree of embarrassment; it is known that British equipment exported to Saudi Arabia has been used in their bombing campaign against Yemen over the past year. The Ethiopian government’s ‘development’ schemes that are leading to large-scale displacement of indigenous people are being funded by international institutions such as the World Bank and the UK’s Department for International Development. Yet human rights only matter nowadays if the people infringing them are ordinary people, not the state, and certainly not when backed by western governments and major banks.

Of course, most people would say that poverty as such will never be history. But we can fight the impoverishment of people by political repression and violence. This is not what the recent Tory interest in corruption and women’s rights is all about; it is about posturing while upholding the unjust economic world order, the wealth and power of the global super-rich, behind the scenes, and there are a lot of vested interests in nothing much being done, and the flow of money northwards and westwards continuing.

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Suspected Islamist militant arrested over Bangladesh gay activist murders

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 May, 2016 - 07:50

Magazine editor Xulhaz Mannan and fellow activist Mahbub Tonoy were hacked to death in Dhaka by at least six men carrying machetes and guns

Bangladesh police have arrested a suspected Islamic militant over the hacking to death of two gay rights activists, part of a spate of murders of intellectuals, writers and religious minorities, an officer said on Sunday.

Xulhaz Mannan, editor of a magazine for Bangladesh’s gay and lesbian community, and fellow activist Mahbub Tonoy were murdered in a Dhaka apartment last month by at least six men carrying machetes and guns.

Related: Founder of Bangladesh's first and only LGBT magazine killed

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Muslims are not a ‘different’ class of Briton: we’re as diverse as the rest | Kenan Malik

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 May, 2016 - 00:06
Trevor Phillips, the former Equality commissioner, is wrong to view Muslims as forming a nation within a nation

“‘It shows it is possible to be Muslim and a westerner. Western values are compatible with Islam.” So said Sadiq Khan after his victory as London mayor. Trevor Phillips, former chief of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, takes a much bleaker view of Islam’s place in western society.

Last month he presented a Channel 4 documentary – What British Muslims Really Think – based on an ICM poll of Muslim attitudes. The poll revealed a deep well of social conservatism.Just 18% of Muslims thought that homosexuality should be legal, four in 10 thought wives should always obey their husbands, almost 90% wanted to prohibit mockery of the prophet. Phillips wrote of “a chasm opening between Muslims and non-Muslims” and “the unacknowledged creation of a nation within the nation, with its own geography, its own values and its own very separate future”. Last week, he developed his thesis in a pamphlet for the thinktank Civitas. In Race and Faith: The Deafening Silence, he argues that Britain’s “superdiversity” has combined with the authorities’ laissez-faire attitude to make integration much more difficult.

Many non-Muslim liberals take conservatism as a hallmark of Muslim authenticity

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What the rest of Europe thinks about Londoners picking a Muslim mayor

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 May, 2016 - 10:00

People living outside the UK give their views on Sadiq Khan’s win and whether a Muslim would be elected where they live

As Europe grapples with the rise of anti-immigration parties, Sadiq Khan’s appointment as the first directly elected Muslim mayor of a western capital city is important. According to those who responded to a Guardian callout, people living in the rest of Europe welcome the choice Londoners have made.

“Sadiq’s appointment sends a great message to the world. It reflects Britain’s state of mind which, as a French person, I think is more open-minded than France,” said 18-year-old Mathilde from the south of France. “It tells me that Londoners see above the religion or the race of a person.”

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Elderly Buddhist monk hacked to death in Bangladesh, say police

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 May, 2016 - 06:40

Latest in spate of murders of religious minorities and secular activists in Muslim-majority nation

An elderly Buddhist monk was found hacked to death on Saturday in Bangladesh, police said, the latest in a spate of murders of religious minorities and secular activists in the Muslim-majority nation.

Related: 'Anyone could become a target’: wave of Islamist killings hits Bangladesh

Related: If Bangladesh lets zealots extinguish its brightest minds, it is no democracy | Raad Rahman

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Stylish cover-up: inside International Modest fashion week

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 May, 2016 - 00:02

New event in Turkey aiming to showcase the best of conservative wear was awash with spring colours

International Modest fashion week opened on Thursday in Istanbul as Turkey sought to make a name for itself as a creative hotspot for conservative wear around the world. Seventy designers are taking part in the two-day event hosted by Modanisa, an online retailer of Muslim fashion, at a railway station flooded with spotlights for the occasion.

“[We want] to create mainstream fashion out of modest fashion and to energise Islamic communities to produce [clothing] for Muslim women,” Modanisa CEO Kerim Ture said. “They want to have their rules but they also want to look chic.”

Related: French fashion mogul Pierre Bergé hits out at 'Islamic' clothing

Related: Muslim Lifestyle Expo in London highlights largely untapped market

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Budget tax cut: religious groups urge those earning more than $80,000 to donate $6 gain to charity

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 May, 2016 - 23:47

Muslim and Christian organisations set up website where donors can pledge their $6 every week to one of 10 high-profile charities

Two young Australians, representing a Muslim and a Christian organisation, have joined forces to call on people who earn $80,000 who got the $6 tax cut in the last budget to donate it to charity.

Fahim Khondaker, of the Islamic Council of Queensland, and Brad Chilcott, of the Activate church, have set up a pledge website where donors can pledge their $6 tax cut every week to one of 10 high-profile charities.

Related: Beware tax cuts for 'Middle Australia'. Above-average earners benefit most

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Five Great Places of Islamic History in the U.S.

altmuslim - 13 May, 2016 - 23:27
By Furqan Shaikh In the current climate of political rhetoric against Islam and Muslims, it can be hard to remember that the United States has always been a country that has respected and acknowledged the contributions of people, places and ideas from outside its borders. While we often think of its inheritance from Greece or [Read More...]

Man pleads guilty to pulling off Muslim woman's hijab during US flight

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 May, 2016 - 22:18

Gill Parker Payne of North Carolina was given a federal misdemeanor charge for grabbing woman’s headscarf on Southwest Airlines flight in December

A North Carolina man has pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge after authorities say he grabbed a Muslim woman’s hijab on a Southwest Airlines flight in December and pulled it off.

Federal authorities say 37-year-old Gill Parker Payne, of Gastonia, North Carolina, entered the plea Friday. He was charged with using force or threat of force to obstruct a Muslim woman in the free exercise of her religious beliefs.

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Islamic Pedagogy and Critical Thinking: Does Islamic Pedagogy Want Critical Thinkers?

Muslim Matters - 13 May, 2016 - 07:58

Recent discussions about the critical thinking skills of students who graduate from Islamic religious institutions have brought to question the aims of an Islamic pedagogy and the capacity for religious institutions in general to instill critical thinking abilities in students. Can an institute which makes knowledge sacred truly create critical thinkers? Critical thinking defined by McPeck (1981) is “the propensity and skill to engage in an activity with reflective skepticism” (Fahim & Masouleh, 2012). While others tend to show a more positive meaning to critical thinking, “a probing inquisitiveness, a keenness of mind, a zealous dedication to reason, and a hunger or eagerness for reliable information” (Facione, 1990, p. 10). The question still remains, how did the Islamic pedagogical system synthesize the sacred and skepticism? Can an Islamic pedagogical system offer insight into the goals of education in general and perhaps bring to question the idea that critical thinking is the final objective of education? Al-Sharaf (2013) and Altunya (2014) are both of the opinion that Islamic pedagogical outlook is based in engineering critical thinkers.

The role of education and learning from the Islamic tradition is seen as the method for preserving religious values and belief (Diallo, 2012) (Al-Sharaf, 2013). In fact, Halstead (2004) said regarding an Islamic pedagogical system, “religion must be at the heart of all education, acting as the glue which holds together the entire curriculum into an integrated whole.” Gunther (2006) explains that the Islamic ideal of piety underlies the concept of education. He explains that this ideal is due to the emphasis placed on Learning by God in the Qur'an and by the Prophet Muhammad in the collections of his sayings, such as, “Seek knowledge from the day of your birth to the day of your death” or “seek knowledge even if it be in China”, all demonstrate the importance of learning and education in shaping the ideal Muslim society (Al-Sharaf, 2013). Due to the fact that science is seen in the Qur'an as the method to recognize and identify the divine, Islamic educational pedagogies were never historically restricted to “religious” knowledge but was broadened to incorporate secular disciplines (Al-Sharaf, 2013).

The unification of religious knowledge and secular knowledge is fundamental for one attempting to understand the similarities and differences between western pedagogies and Islamic pedagogies. Others have pointed out that the centrality of education to the Islamic tradition should be traced back to the beginning of the Prophetic mission of Muhammad. The first verses revealed upon Muhammad through the angel Gabriel were, “Read! In the name of your lord.”(Qur'an). Can it be suggested that this verse is the primary inspiration for the oldest continually operating university founded in 859, Al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco and all western scholasticism (Sabkia, 2013)? George Makdisi (1989) believes so,

“Two major intellectual movements, which we have long considered as of exclusively Western origin, have their roots deep down in Islamic soil. The first movement, appropriately called scholasticism, is that of the school guilds in the middle ages; the second is that of humanism in the Italian Renaissance”

According to Makdisi the term doctorate was called licentia docendi in medieval Latin. This term however, is a “word for word translation of the original Arabic term, ijazah attadris” This license, in classical Islam was a license to teach religious law exclusively. As Makdisi points out the doctorate bestowed triple status; (1) he was a master of law, (2) he was a professor of legal opinions, (3) he was a doctor or “teacher” of law. The Latin equivalents of which were magister, professor, and doctor. If Makdisi is correct regarding the origins of western scholasticism, why do we see a split between the secular from religious? Diallo (2012) places the differences between the two educational systems not in their origin but rather in the social and cultural shifts that took place in Europe after the 18th century philosophers such as Descartes, Kant, and Durkheim and the appearance of academia who gained credibility for the newly formed universities. This shift is described, accurately as a push for “the primacy of secular reason and knowledge over the reason and knowledge within religious framework. The Enlightenment eliminated the realm of the sacred and there remained no authority that could not be challenged. As Diallo (2012) emphasizes, “western pedagogy and epistemology was freed from religious control”. The Islamic academic tradition responded different than its Christian counterpart, in that it never divorced religious knowledge from scientific or secular knowledge. But rather married the two (Al-Sharaf, 2013).

Looking at early Islamic scholarly works on education shows that from the beginning there was unification of all sciences under religion. Al-Jahiz an eight century Muslim scholar outlined an Islamic pedagogical system that unified all fields. Al-Jahiz (800cc) enumerated the topics a student should be taught and the sequence in which they should be taught. Al-Jahiz (800cc) wrote that that a student should be taught: writing, arithmetic, law, the pillars of religion, the Qur'an, grammar, prosody, and poetry. Al-Jahiz's breakdown shows the interconnectedness of what some would call secular fields and religious.

Makdisi (1989) explains why Islamic scholarship did not face the same crisis that the Christian world faced. The Islamic doctorate, which was referred to earlier, was only restricted to field of law alone. Meaning that one did not need a license to teach other sciences. When the doctorate was introduced it consisted of two elements: (1) competence i.e. knowledge and skill as a scholar of law, and (2) authority i.e. “the exclusive autonomous right… to issue opinions having the value of orthodox (Makdisi, 1989). However, in the Christian West there was already another authority in place i.e. the church. This appearance of authority from other than the church marks the beginning of the struggle between the church and the university and thus religion and science. “There was therefore the prospect of duality of authorities in Christian West” Makdisi points out.

St. Thomas Aquinas had already recognized this problem and made a distinction between the two magisterial; the teaching authority of the pastor and the authority of the professor of theology. The first possessed jurisdictional authority, while the second possessed, the competence that belongs to a master in a given field of knowledge. Makdisi explains it very clearly, “the competence of the professor was subordinate to the authority of the pastor”. One has to wonder how it was perceived that a growing community of educated parishioner would continual overlook the possible incompetence of the pastors? It wasn't long before the Faculty of Theology in Paris in 1387 assumed the power of passing final judgements on religious doctrine (Makdisi, 1989). What this means is that the authority of the professor could not help but clash with the authority of the pastors. The pastors gained their authority from the church i.e. the Pope and the academia gained authority from the University i.e. academic pursuit and verification. This forces one to question the origins of atheist trends among academia.

Islamic pedagogical systems simply didn't create a struggle for power between academia and “the church”, because there was never a centralized body that assumed the authority to issue rulings. Religious scholarship in the Islamic tradition has always been decentralized. The licensing to teach always remained restricted to religious law and was open to anyone. Essentially the theological professors became the pastors. Science and other fields where never controlled by the religious scholarship. Thus avoiding conflict between areas where freedom of thought ideally should be allowed unchecked i.e. sciences, and other areas where freedom of thought would first have to licensed and regulated i.e. religious law.

Medieval Muslim scholars did of course make a distinction between the two types of knowledge. The “traditionally transmitted” sciences included Qur'an, Hadith (the traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad), Law, and principles of jurisprudence. And the “rational” sciences logic, philosophy, math, astronomy, etc. (Zaman, 1999). The religious institutions were the primary centers for learning both sciences. Zaman (1999) describes the breakdown of knowledges in two broader categories. The Primary sciences i.e. that which was “sought for its own sake” and the auxiliary sciences i.e. that which was sought “to aid” the primary sciences. These auxiliary sciences were never static and adjusted throughout the ages according to the threats to Islamic society.

The question that naturally should be asked after looking at the “sacred” nature of knowledge and the presumption that reverence is needed for learning true knowledge is, “Is there any room for critical thought in Islamic pedagogical systems?” Halstead (2004) claims, that in Islamic educational systems' “knowledge must be approached reverently and in humility, for there cannot be any 'true' knowledge that is in conflict with religion and divine revelation, only ignorance” (Halstead, 2004). But is it plausible to assume that a civilization which placed so much emphasis on education, did not construct a critical thinking pedagogy? According to Gunther (2006) there are multiple examples of the Islamic religiously based educational system emphasizing critical thought in students. In fact, Gunther (2006) speaks in detail about the numerous medieval Arabic works devoted to “pedagogical and didactic issues”. These works focus on teaching methods and ideals for learning and touch upon the moral aspect of learning and organization and content learning as well as curriculum and how to create a student capable of thinking critically. In addition, Gunther (2006) offers two observations about medieval Islamic education. Firstly, Arab culture and Greco-Hellenistic heritage were both adapted and incorporated into Islamic educational theory. Secondly, “from the eighth century to the sixteenth, there was a continuous tradition of Arabic-Islamic scholarship dealing with pedagogical and didactic issues…”.

Dr. Al-Sharaf (2013), places the source of critical thought in the primary sources of Islam i.e. the Qur'an and Prophetic traditions and sayings of Prophet Muhammad. Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said, “contemplate everything, but do not contemplate over the nature of God”. This concept of questioning everything which is encouraged in this saying of Muhammad is the very same idea behind critical thinking pedagogies. As explained by Fahim and Masouleh, “To Critical Thinking, the critical person is something like a critical consumer of information; he or she is driven to seek reasons and evidence.” (Fahim & Masouleh, 2012) The Prophetic tradition mentioned above clearly encourages analysis of everything, while however placing a limit to what can be contemplated i.e. god.

A sixteenth century scholar Ahmed ibn Lutfullah also referred to as Muneccimbasi wrote an entire book on the method of perusing books, which he titled adabul-mutala (the art of reading). He explained that critical thinking wasn't a skill that students naturally possessed but rather a skill that was slowly learned and mastered (Muneccimbasi, 1660).

Indicating a need for instruction in the area critical thinking, and that critical thinking and analysis was a desired objective of religious education. Ḥāmid ibn Burhān ibn Abī Dharr al-Ghifārī wrote, Risālah fī ādāb al-muṭālaʻah (Treaties in the method of Studying) in the fourteenth century. This books primary focus as explained by the author is the explanation and guide for students and researchers (Ghaffari, 869). Al-Ghifari (869) states in his introduction, “Everything that one reads will be either a statement or a propositional claim. The reader must consider if the requirements of a definition are met, if the definition is adequate, is it circular…”. Al-Ghifari's work is significant because of the profound influence he had on seventeenth century Ottoman scholarly culture. (ElRouayheb, 2015) In fact El-Rouayheb's research clearly displays a shift in the type of literature written regarding the method of study. This shift focused on the methods of verification and critique rather than the ethical aspect of learning. Al-Ghifari (869) writes in his final advice to his readers,

“And be careful that you don't restrict yourself to merely rote memorization of words without understanding the inner meanings of those words. This can create stupidity and mental lethargy; in fact, such memorization has the propensity to complete take away one ability to understand deeply”

According to Diallo (2010) and Gunther (2006) and the majority of Islamic educationalist, memorization of Qur'an and prophetic traditions is the base of the Islamic educational system. The focus and attention placed on memorization of traditional sources of knowledge has caused, in Diallo's (2010) understanding assumptions about the Islamic educational system. For example, the idea that such as pedagogy impedes on the learner's creativity and critical thinking skills and that this memorization based pedagogy creates passive learners. These mentioned assumptions regarding the effects of a memorization based educational system are then placed in juxtaposition with the western pedagogy based in critical thinking development where students actively participate in the knowledge building process.

A curriculum development manual was written as early as ninth-century, by Muhammad ibn Sahnun, titled Rules of Conduct for Teachers (Adab al-Muallimun) (Gunther, 2006). This treatise deals with issues that an elementary school teacher might face when teaching. He discusses aspects of curriculum development, examination, appointment and payment of teachers, organization of teaching, supervision of pupils at school, supervision of pupils on their way home, discipline of pupils and conflict resolution and final graduation of students. (Gunther, 2006)

Ibn Sahnun's treatise also sticks with the Islamic norm of placing Qur'an memorization as the base for educational pursuits. Interestingly however is Ibn Sahnun's instruction to teachers to challenge the mind of the pupils.

Gunther (2006) also presents another medieval Islamic scholar who wrote about pedagogical issues, Al-Jahiz. Al-Jahiz (869) penned his treaties, The Book of Teachers (Kitab al-Muallimin) in the eight-century. His book focuses heavily in issues and questions regarding learning and education at a more advanced level. Al-Jahiz places school teachers as the champions of society and the best of all educators. This is an appreciation which according to Gunther is not evident in our society. Al-Jahiz also makes an interesting correlation between the advancement of civilization and the skills of writing and calculation. Which according to Al-Jahiz displays the value of school teachers. Al-Jahiz (869) also brings to light the problems of a memorization based pedagogy. According to Al-Jahiz (869) a good memory is needed and valuable for the learning process. However, he believes, “Memorization inhibits the intellect”. He further explains the “memorization is mere imitation whereas deductive reasoning brings one to certainty and great confidence” (Gunther, 2006).

Al-Jahiz suggest a reasonable balance, he feels that a student that doesn't exercise the rational reflection than ideas won't come quickly to him, and if he doesn't exercise his memorization and retention skills his ideas won't stay. (Jāḥiẓ, 869)

How can we understand the different approach of Ibn Sahnun and the majority of Islamic educationalist and Al-Jahiz (869) and others who exhibit an abhorrence for memorization based pedagogy? One possible approach for understanding the Islamic pedagogical relationship between memorization and critical thinking is to apply Blooms Taxonomy of learning objectives.

As explained by Qader Vazifeh Damirchi, Mir Seyyedi and Gholamreza Rahimi (2012), “Bloom's taxonomy is a framework for analyzing and testing levels of knowledge achievements”. This approach may give insight into the deeper workings of the Islamic memorization based pedagogy. The base level of Bloom's taxonomy are the knowledge objectives. Stated clearly by Bloom himself, the knowledge objective primarily emphasizes the psychological process of remembering. (Bloom, 1956) The second level of the of Bloom's taxonomy are the comprehension objectives, which represent the lowest level of understanding, an individual must not only have knowledge, but must also understand what he/she knows (Damirchi, Seyyedi, & Rahimi, 2012)

Thereafter Bloom's taxonomy places the application objective. Which according to Bloom is the use of abstractions in particular and concrete situations (Bloom, 1956). Fourth is the analysis objectives, which is according to Bloom the breakdown of material into its consistent elements. Fifthly, the synthesis objective which is “the putting together of the elements and parts so as to form a whole” (Bloom, 1956). The last of the objectives according to Bloom (1956) is the evaluation objective which is defined as making judgements about the whole. This is the original taxonomy, which has since its creation been revised. David R. Krathwohl (2002) has pointed out that the original taxonomy is ordered from simple to complex and from concrete to abstract (Krathwohl, 2002). Forty-five years after its creation however Bloom's well accepted taxonomy was revised. The revised Taxonomy maintained its six categories however the names of the categories were changed and rearranged: (1) Remember, (2) Understand, (3) Apply, (4) Analyze, (5) Evaluate, (6) Create (Krathwohl, 2002). Bloom's taxonomy be it the original or the revised, highlights the importance of building a base of knowledge. Critical thinking is clearly a skill which is developed after a student has obtained some fundamental level of information. In fact, a pedagogy which places over emphasis on critical can run the risk of destroying a student's ability to learn. If critique comes before acquisition. Hayes (2015) explains, “By critical thinking we mean thinking for one's self as opposed to just accepting what authorities of various kinds tell us to think”. Is it actually possible to ever begin the learning process without blind acceptance for what authorities say? Hayes (2015) explains that ordinary students normally begin “without comprehension of a text or work of art”. Hayes (2015) explains that a critical thinking based pedagogy teaches a student to reject everything until further investigation. Yet it fails to explain how the student who rejects authoritative knowledge should verify claims about fields which they have no prior knowledge. Hayes (2015) also explains how developing comprehension takes time and is dependent on conversation. Critical thinking undermines meaning-receiving. Meaning-receiving is the act of trying to find meaning in what I am saying. It is both ethical and cognitive as Haynes explains. Interestingly Hayes (2015) explains that this is an act of charity on the part of the listener because,

“you have to reach out to me with charity, to make an effort to construe me as sense-making rather than nonsensical”.

The charity involved is that you establish that I deserve to be listened to before I can prove that what I am saying makes sense. It is an effort to find sense in what the other person is saying. This ethical effort is undermined from the critical thinking orientation, which assumes that belief is easy and challenging is hard. However, as Hayes points out when dealing with the ideas and thoughts of others searching for plausibility may in fact be more challenging than thought processes based in skepticism. Thus according to Hayes the real challenge of today's classroom is to try in take up the position of interest rather than the position of disinterest.

Al-Ghifari (1868) seems to agree that critical thinking comes after having initially attempted meaning- receiving. He writes in his Treaties on the Method of Studying, “And be careful that you do not restrict yourself to a general reading without following up that reading with close analyzation and deeper investigation. Because this i.e. a topical reading will lead to being deprived of the ability to read deeply and cause of stupidity”. This clearly shows that this eighteenth century Islamic scholar understood the method and approach which Bloom invented. Sidiq ibn Hasan al-Qanuji (1889), wrote an encyclopedic work on learning and teaching, which he titled Abjad al-ulum (the simple truths of knowledge) in the eighteenth century. AlQanuji (1889) quotes the words from another book which his lost today written by Alimullah ibn Abdul al-Razaq. He writes;

“…Studying is a science which teaches one how to learn the meaning of a writer…when you wish to begin studying a work, look at the work from start to finish in a way that extract the meaning from it. If you are successful in extracting the meaning the first time well be it…After extracting the meaning examine every conceptual aspect very closely for any deficiency…” (al-Qanuji, 1889)

It appears that this source which predates al-Qanuji (1889) understands the importance of meaning-receiving before critical analysis.

Both the Western Critical thinking based pedagogy and an Islamic pedagogy have religious roots. And while the Western pedagogy has for the most part divorced religion, the Islamic pedagogy has remained deeply spiritual and religion orientated. With Memorization as a key stepping stone in the process of acquisition of knowledge, it is not seen as an obstruction to learning until it is made the objective of educational pursuits in either of the pedagogical systems. There also seems to remain questions regarding how a critical thinking pedagogy effects acquisition of knowledge meaning-receiving. Questions regarding the ability of Islamic seminaries to actually achieve their critical thinking objective still needs to be discussed.


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No, Labour can’t “just win”

Indigo Jo Blogs - 11 May, 2016 - 22:25

Picture of Rhea Wolfson, a young white woman with below shoulder length brown hair, wearing red glasses and a bright red jacket, holding a sign saying "Vote Labour". Two South Asian men are walking behind her.One of the candidates standing for the Labour party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), having replaced Ken Livingstone on the centre-left slate, is a lady called Rhea Wolfson, who came to my attention today when someone retweeted a tweet she had posted about having received anti-Semitic abuse (I had a look and it was serious stuff; Nazi references about vermin and taunts about gas chambers, for example, not angry remarks about Israel). I discovered that she was on Corbyn’s side of the party and there was a post by “Guido Fawkes” drawing attention to an article she had written for London Young Labour (now deleted) which suggested that winning the 2020 election should not be Labour’s main priority. Fawkes summarised her remarks by saying “the Corbynista candidate for the NEC says there is no point in winning elections if it means compromising your purist values”. I don’t see it that way at all.

The deleted article is cached here and there is an article in a similar vein, still up, at Left Futures. Fawkes quoted a couple of passages from the LYL article:

Is winning in 2020 the priority and if so, what are we willing to sacrifice to achieve it? My belief is that winning 2020 should not be the priority of the Labour Party. This belief comes from a further belief that the Labour party is a movement above and beyond anything…

I’ve read quite a lot recently statements in the realm of You change opinions from inside government- why don’t the left understand that? and whilst there is some truth there, my fear is what happens in reality (as I think is exemplified by Liz Kendall’s campaign) is that you have members who continue to say that as we sit in government. Those policies got us elected becomes these policies will keep us elected and we end up with the reality that is a Labour government, unrecognisable from its values (and its members) and a reality where the only opinions that get changed are our own.

I’m not in the Labour party and don’t intend to join any time soon (my views on Israel would get me thrown out pretty quickly in the current climate, for starters), but like most people in England I recognise that the only alternative to a Tory government as of 2020 (assuming some crisis doesn’t ensue to bring about a general election sooner) is a Labour one. However, I do agree with the sentiment that we cannot just elect right-wingers “because they’re electable” because we need to know what we want to get elected to do. Just replacing the Tories is not enough if you promise not to reverse any of their major policies of the past six years. They also have to face up to their mistakes and understand how to avoid repeating them.

I read the Guardian’s Long Read earlier today. It was about illegal gangmasters in north Cambridgeshire who exploit migrant farm labourers from eastern Europe. We all know that the debate over Europe and immigration centres on the mere fact that Labour allowed eastern Europeans to freely live and work in the UK, and not on why they did this and the effect that it’s had on the parts of the country involved. However, they also allowed casual gang labour to flourish, with hours and pay that were only acceptable to the desperate:

One of them [a group of locals] had been a land worker in the past, when there was still an Agricultural Wages Board to make sure people received a living wage and decent breaks. “I preferred being outside, so I didn’t mind it. It was head down, arses up, half-seven till half-three, and an hour break for lunch because that’s what a man could manage. Saturdays and Sundays were off.” But he reckoned it was inhuman work now.

“It’s the big farm businesses that have ruined this town, with their cheap labour,” said the older of the two men. “British workers would do those jobs, but it’s the way they pay them, the way they want them, that’s the problem.”

The woman in the group had worked in another food factory, where she had been team leader. Working patterns had switched from five days a week with overtime at weekends to rolling 12-hour shifts, four days on, four days off. “The work got harder and harder, and more and more agency people came in – foreigners. Don’t get me wrong, some of them were good hard workers, but I went home off one shift and when I came back on the next, they were still there. How can that be legal?”

If you look at a map of the 1997 general election results, you’ll see that East Anglia is still mostly blue but Labour did win a couple of rural east Anglian seats, including the Norfolk/Lincolnshire borderlands around King’s Lynn, just north of Wisbech where the events detailed in that article happened. Labour hasn’t been wiped out in the big towns (e.g. Norwich and Cambridge, though they’ve lost Ipswich and Peterborough) but the major challenge to the Tories in places like Wisbech now comes from UKIP, not Labour (UKIP came second in that seat in 2015 as well as in several neighbouring constituencies). This country is now on the precipice of leaving the EU, with disastrous consequences, in large part because Labour forgot about the workers while in government.

How? Because they decided that the needs of business for cheap labour and supermarkets and their urban consumers for instant produce outweighed the needs of ordinary people to decent jobs in their own communities, jobs they would have done (regardless of all the talk about “British are too lazy to do farm work”) if the conditions were decent. They also presumably calculated that the parts of the country affected by these matters wouldn’t vote Labour in 2005 or 2010 even if they had in 1997, and that restricting immigration would lose them left-wing votes in places like London to the Liberal Democrats or Greens. It was an example of how New Labour abandoned working people (of course, their dereliction of their northern ex-industrial base is a better-known example) in search of business approval and the middle-class suburban vote, and we are now all paying the price, and threatened with still bigger losses.

This is why Labour cannot just stick Blairites back into the leadership and expect them to win again. It is not 1997 and none of them have the charisma Blair did then, and the Tories are still not quite as discredited or divided as they were in 1997. Today’s Blairites are not fresh-faced young reformers but tired old hacks touting a strategy that worked once. I don’t agree with purity politics, but it’s no use saying “we can’t transform society unless we’re in power” without knowing what kind of transformation you want to make. I fear that they just want to join the race to the bottom, and appeal to the worst in people, and the transformation can wait.

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