"Israel Isn't Racist, But................................... "
An academic from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has conducted research of Israeli textbooks for the last five years, before concluding that there is racism present within them. Nurit Peled-Elhanan is a professor of Language and Education at the Hebrew University and is publishing her account of her findings titled Palestine in Israeli Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education.
I have to commend Peled-Elhanan for taking the time out for objectively analyse Israeli teachings in schools. Her own daughter was the victim of an unfortunate suicide bombing in 1997, and despite this, without getting emotional and tarnishing all Palestinians with the same brush, she acknowledges the root cause of the problem in the following quotation
"Terrorist attacks like this are the direct consequence of the oppression, slavery, humiliation and state of siege imposed on the Palestinians.”
Furthermore, she places herself in a vulnerable position by vocally making the stances she does. She added
"University professors stopped inviting me to conferences. And when I do speak, the most common reaction is, 'you are anti-Zionist'."
One can experience how Islam and Muslims are hardly credited for any success in worldly advancement throughout history, despite their massive contributions. These Israeli textbooks depict Palestinians as “The Arab with a camel, in an Ali Baba dress. They describe them as vile and deviant and criminal, people who don't pay taxes, people who live off the state, people who don't want to develop.” However, it is not just Israeli textbooks that need exfoliation; looking back at my school days, our history lessons never taught us anything regarding the contributions of Muslims to human development.
We were taught the following: the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans were the epiphany of ancient civilisation followed by the dark ages, where the whole of planet Earth was in religious backwardness. To finish off, there was a Renaissance that magically appeared from Italy and progressed to the whole of Europe and we were re-enlightened.
Question: Why do a majority of us believe this narrative and cease to challenge it?
Changing the curriculum takes time but despite this we should all be contacting our education minister and MPs and questioning why this vital bit of history is missing from our books, however, in the meantime take immediate action by reviving those Islamic institutions called Mosques, to teach the youth how to think critically. It should be at the forefront of a Mosque leader's responsibility to empower and educate the youth, to fill the gaps where our national curriculum leaves them. This is mandatory for a strong sense of identity for the Muslims as well as a strong sense of understanding Islam. Allah says in the Quran 4: 82-
“Do they not, then ponder about the Quran? Had it been from someone other than Allah, they would have found in it a great deal of discrepancy.”
The above verse implies the Quran is not something that should be swallowed without understanding, but something that should be analysed and comprehended. If we are not taught to critically think, we are in fact doing a great injustice to the Quran and are not actively trying to understand Islam.
Secondly, the youth need to be empowered by being taught the history and identity that no history or PSE/PSHE lesson will ever teach in mainstream schools. We need to be taught about the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the Righteous Caliphs, Caliph Umar ben Abdil Azeez and how he abolished poverty and established justice. We need to know that Abbas bin Firnas was the first polymath to attempt to fly before 1000 CE. What about Ibn Nafees, the discoverer of how blood flows through the body? How about Ali ibn Sina whose magnum opus “The Canon of Medicine” was a standard reference book for around 500 years? Al-Khwarizmi who gave us algebra? What about Fatimah al-Fihri, founder of the oldest university in the world (University of Karaouine, Fes, Morocco), which had great men as part of its alumni, including Rabbi Mosche ben Maimon? Al-Idrisi who was one of the most famous cartographers in the world? Maryam al-Astrolabi who advanced the field of Astrolabe design? What about those female scholars of Islam, without their efforts, we would not have Islamic knowledge today? All these names are hardly resonated within the Muslim community, despite their massive achievements which are miniscule compared with what one can achieve today.
We need to change our institutions to empower our youth and teach us how to use our own minds.