A new high school curriculum will help young people realise there’s no conflict between following Islam and being raised Australian, despite an atmosphere of Islamaphobia, according to young student Gaida Merei.
Ms Merei was part of the pilot program of what will eventually become a national syllabus for Islamic and Arabic studies.
She said young Muslims often find themselves questioning their identity because they don’t have the answers to questions about their faith that are raised in the news.
“It makes them makes you feel like you’re constantly being attacked,” Ms Merei said.
“It could make them [young Muslims] question their belonging and negatively impact the way they view their role in society and whether their contribution has value.”
She said the pilot program gave her a confidence boost.
“It meant I could embrace my identity a lot more confidently, and confirmed that just because I followed the faith, it didn’t conflict with being raised Australian.”
Experts work toward creating national curriculum
Currently, Australian Islamic schools use approved curriculum for core subjects such as maths, science and English, but there is no cohesive religious studies or Arabic program.
In an attempt to change that, leading experts in Islamic education from around the globe are meeting in South Australia to look at creating a standardised national Islamic studies curriculum that would become the first in the western world.
Professor Mohamad Abdalla speaks to a group in a library.
PHOTO: Professor Mohamad Abdalla speaks to staff at the Islamic College of SA. (Supplied: Zuzie Fiyad, Islamic Society of SA)
The two-day conference brings together international experts from New Zealand, Indonesia, North America amongst others to discuss a renewed approach to teaching in Islamic schools.
For the last couple of years several Islamic schools have been in the spotlight for governance concerns.
Centre for Islamic Thought and Education, Professor Mohamad Abdalla, said these issues shed light on the need for Islamic schools to re-evaluate future direction.
As part of the conference agenda academics and policy specialist will look at creating a learning program relevant to a modern-day Australian context.
Professor Abdalla said that’s something current Islamic studies in schools lack.
“Given the [political] climate, young Australians may feel they don’t belong to this country, Islamic studies could empower them to feel confident,” he said.
How to applying faith to modern Australia
Ms Merei said from her experiences of attending an Islamic school, students are missing out on education relevant to their lives in Australia.
“The way the religion is followed and applied in modern Australia will differ to the way it is followed in countries in the Middle East or Europe or Asia,” she said.
“It seems like religious teachers force their understanding of the faith from overseas onto young Australians not understanding the issues and struggles we face are extremely different.”
The course explored often misunderstood topics of sharia, women in Islam, terrorism and identity.
Ms Merei said she missed out on learning about these subjects at the Islamic school she attended and now understands the value of learning about them from a credible source.
“They can properly engage in debate and discussion with people who have different understandings and perspectives.
“They’ll be less frustrated when questioned on these topics because they can actually respond.”
She said in today’s world self-proclaimed scholars are brainwashing young people who have little understanding of their faith.
Ms Merei said having a basic understanding of these topics would empower them to see through their politically motivated propaganda.
Professor Abdalla said an Australian curriculum was expected to be ready in the next two to three years.