Things that make you to Think

‘The absence of thinking is evil’

In the final part of a two part interview, Ebrahim Moosa, professor of Islamic Studies and co-director of Contending Modernities at the University of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs talks to the Dhaka Tribune’s Abid Azad about the radicalisation of youth.



How would you describe the relation between a madrasa education and a ‘mainstream’ education?

In places like Bangladesh, education, even secular education, is in serious crisis.

People are not taught to think humanely and intelligently. At secular universities the smartest students think that if they mouth off radical ideas they have a chance to become political leaders.

Everything is based on conspiracy theories about the world. It is not a fact-based world they live in but a fiction-based world tailored to their political interests and that of their peers.

What we need is a return to humanistic education, a focus on the humanities to make us understand who we are as people and individuals. To acquire a deep sense of morality, faith and a complex understanding of history.

Science and social science education does not humanise. It creates technicians. But technicians without a humane core can become dangerous – a danger unto themselves and others.

All the major terrorists: Osama Bin Laden, Anwar Awlaki and the Dhaka [attackers] come from wealthy families. But once you examine them closely, you see that they were not educated to be humane. Their education was flawed.

Even the Islam they learned did not make them sensitive human beings but turned them into automatons. A humanities education makes you think.

The absence of thinking is evil.

Qawmi madrasa graduates have a challenge getting into the national education system in Bangladesh. The graduates of the Aaliya madrasas are totally ineffective in making an impact on the real religious lives of the people.

Aaliya madrasas are the greatest disappointment in Bangladesh. They produce individuals with degrees and certificates but they do not have a deep and sophisticated education.

Qawmi madrasas have the potential but they are too fond of living in the eleventh century and so many of their Qawmi madrasas live in a fantasy world of the past.

How should society address the issue of radicalisation?

The government should call a crisis conference in Bangladesh. It should start a process of restoring trust in governance.

That means zero-tolerance for corruption. All politicians engaged in corruption should be jailed.

Or if Bangladesh establishes a truth and reconciliation commission, people engaged in political violence and corruption must confess to their wrongdoing and be banned from political office for at least a decade.

First you need to clear the political field. Bangladesh is a divided society and you desperately need a truth and reconciliation commission like South Africa and Chile.

In parallel you need to reform education from the elementary level to university level. Education should be about developing human beings who care for the world, not just about getting a job.

Bangladesh and neighbouring India has some of the best minds. You need to turn to Bangla classical literature that teaches people how to be humane, caring, justice loving and fact loving.

For that you require clean and honest governance. Politicians must lead by example, not confuse people with fiery speeches that serve their own interests.

The public must challenge politicians and ask them to provide empirical facts not fictions. Education for humanity and humanisation is the top priority.

Right now it seems that both Islamic education and secular education dehumanises people. Hence people resort to destructive behaviour. And conspiracy theories are widespread in Muslims societies. Millions believe that the attacks in Dhaka, Medina, Baghdad and Istanbul were perpetrated by the United States and Israel.

With this mindset, how can you prescribe a cure? Will banning Peace TV halt the process or radicalisation?

Banning Peace TV will only make Peace TV and Zakir Naik into heroes. People will be able to find Peace TV broadcasts on the internet. How can you block it?

Zakir Naik might not encourage violence but he creates an Islamic supremacist mentality that is very toxic. This supremacist mentality does not view all human beings as equals. It creates the false notion that Muslims are superior to others. It is a short step from that mindset to committing atrocities.

Zakir Naik’s toxic propaganda should be countered by the rational voices of Islam. But the Muslim public is so insecure and so much into fantasy-based reality that they flock in their millions to Naik because he enables them to live in the artificial bubble of fantasy-Islam.

Peace TV is escapist TV.

It enables people to escape reality and feel good about themselves. Many individuals who watch cannot distinguish between escapism and reality, and inflict their toxic mindsets on innocents around the world, including the victims of the Dhaka shootings.

To find the interview link click here

Read PART I : ‘Elite Muslims are the biggest challenge’

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