FaithWorld

Saudi cleric to king’s university: don’t teach evolution, mix sexes

kaustA senior Saudi cleric said religious scholars should vet the curriculum at the kingdom’s only co-educational university, meant to be a beacon of science, to prevent “alien ideologies” such as evolution. (Photo: King Abdulla at KAUST opening, 23 Sept 2009/Susan Baaghil)

King Abdullah’s University of Science and Technology (KAUST), designed to produce Saudi scientists, is the only educational institution in the kingdom where men and women can mix. It is located near a Red Sea village away from the clutches of religious police and opened on September 23.

“The recommendation is to set up sharia committees at this university to oversee these studies and look into what violates the sharia (Islamic law),” Sheikh Saad al-Shithri, a member of a panel of top scholars, was quoted by al-Watan newspaper.

“We are looking at some of the sciences that have included some irregular and alien ideologies, like evolution and such other ideologies,” said Shithri, who is one of several clerics who objected to co-education at the university.

Read the whole story here.

What do you think about this? Can a new university for science and technology not teach evolution?

Saudi co-ed university highlights need for education reform

kaust (Photo:KAUST under construction near Jeddah, 19 Oct 2008/Asma Alsharif)

Saudi Arabia is launching its first co-educational high-tech university, but unless clerical influence is removed the state education system will not move into the modern age, analysts say.  King Abdullah has invited heads of state, business leaders and Nobel laureates next week to the opening of a technology university which has attracted top scientists and is meant to produce Saudi scientists and engineers.

The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is the first institute in one of the world’s biggest oil exporters that is outside the reach of the education ministry, where clerics opposing cutting religious content have a strong say. Men and women will be able to mingle, a stark contrast to otherwise strict gender segregation in the Islamic kingdom.

Despite its immense financial resources, the parameters of Saudi school and university education are governed by religious strictures and many subjects are off-limits for women to study.

from Global News Journal:

Sex education again in Malaysia, thanks to the courts

By Niluksi Koswanage

Gay Austrian fashionista Bruno will not be making an appearance on Malaysia's screens this summer for fear of corrupting this mostly-Muslim nation's youth.

But Malaysia's parents will still not have it easy as the country's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim  is again on trial for sodomy in a re-run of a 14-month case that in 1998 generated endless sexually explicit headlines and questions from curious children.

Photo: Anwar enters Kuala Lumpur courtoom with wife Wan Aziza Wasn Ismail for his sodomy trial on July 15/ Reuters (Zainal Abd Halim)

Austria debates democratic credentials of its Islam teachers

Austrian politicians and media are in uproar over a recent survey that said a fifth of all Islamic religious education teachers here hold anti-democratic views.

In the survey of 210 teachers, conducted as part of a PhD thesis, 21.9 percent agreed with the following statement: “I oppose democracy because it is not compatible with Islam.”

The public debate has worn on without asking a few crucial questions, such as how representative these findings are, how thorough the survey was and whether the questions steered the answers.

Evolution gets added boost in Texas schools

Social and religious conservatives in Texas suffered a setback on Thursday when the State Board of Education narrowly voted to ditch a requirement that high school science teachers cover the “strengths and weaknesses” of Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, which is more popularly known as the theory of evolution.

A final vote on the entire science curriculum is expected today. You can see reports here and here.

The rule to teach “both sides of the evolution debate” had been in place since the 1980s, but national interest has been rekindled in recent years by attempts to get Biblical creationism taught in U.S. schools in one form of another.

Cardinal Schönborn links financial crisis to evolutionism

Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn is one of the Catholic Church’s most vocal critics of what he calls evolutionism, which he defines as an ideology that applies Darwin’s theory of natural selection to a wide variety of questions beyond biology. He usually directs his criticism at scientists and philosophers who say evolution proves that God does not exist. (Photo: Cardinal Schönborn, 16 March 2007/Leonhard Foege)

In an interview with the Austrian provincial newspaper Vorarlberger Nachrichten on Jan. 5, Schönborn, a former student and close associate of Pope Benedict, said his criticism also applied to the current financial crisis:

Q, One of your favourite topics is evolution and creation. Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to devote yourself to more practical things than those that cannot be proven anyway?

Headscarves new target for Austrian far right

It’s already been a big theme in Germany, FranceTurkey and the Netherlands, and now the Austrian far right is asking: Should public employees be allowed to wear Muslim headscarves at work?

 

Two women have become the first schoolteachers in Vienna to wear headscarves while teaching.

 

One is also a local centre-left Social Democrat politician.

 

Teachers in other parts of the country already wear headscarves, and there is no law banning public employees from wearing such items as there is in some other European countries.  

In Nepal, human rights apply to living goddesses too

A kumari at a Kathmandu festival, 26 July 2008/Shruti ShresthaWhenever God is mentioned in connection with human rights, the idea is usually that there are “God-given rights” bestowed on humans.

Nepal’s Supreme Court has turned this around by bestowing basic human rights such as education and healthcare on gods. Goddesses, to be more precise. It seems that kumaris , virgin girls venerated as “living goddesses” and confined to Buddhist temples until puberty, return to their families as teenagers unprepared for real life. Critics of the tradition filed a suit that led to the Supreme Court decision.

“A directive order has been issued to the government to provide basic human rights, including education and health (care) to the child,” Supreme Court spokesman Hemanta Rawal said. “This means the child’s rights can’t be violated in the name of culture.”

Pope sets higher goals for Catholic education

Pope Benedict waves after his speech to Catholic educators, 17 April 2008/Jonathan ErnstThere was some speculation before his visit that Pope Benedict was going to read the riot act to Catholic educators for not keeping their universities and schools sufficiently Catholic. That was never really on the cards, because Benedict doesn’t like to come and berate people like that.

Also, the situation is complex, reflecting changes in the overall Catholic population and in Catholic academe. Reading the riot act would not have been very effective, anyway, because Benedict doesn’t really have the power to enforce changes in individual U.S. Catholic universities.

Instead, he opted for an approach that was actually more challenging to the Catholic educators than sitting through an outright rebuke would have been. He outlined a whole philosophy of what Catholic education should be and challenged them to live up to its ambitious goals. It was a counter-cultural message, one that sounds quite strange in such an individualistic society like America. He defended academic freedom, but freedom as the Church defines it — the freedom to follow the truth of Catholic doctrine. Freedom in this view is not simply “freedom from…” It’s “freedom to…” It’s not some free-standing concept (as modern society might see it) but a concept with a purpose.

French student imams study at Catholic university

Imams at the Grand Mosque of Paris, 31 Aug. 2004/Victor TonelliFrance’s long-awaited programme of university training for Muslim prayer leaders and chaplains was launched this week — at the Catholic university in Paris. We wrote about this not too long ago when the project was announced. It was third time lucky for Dalil Boubakeur, head of the French Muslim Council and rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, who had earlier tried in vain to get the Sorbonne and another section of the University of Paris interested in the project. The Institut Catholique de Paris finally stepped up to take on the project, which the French government has been encouraging for several years now as a way to ensure imams in France are properly educated. It thinks the fact that 3/4 of the 1,200 imams in France are not French citizens, 1/3 of them don’t speak French and almost all have little or no real religious training is a potential source of radical ideology.

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of ParisAccording to Sophie de Ravinel in Le Figaro, the average age of those on the programme is about 40 and just over half of them are French citizens. The rest come mostly from North Africa or sub-Saharan Africa. Three women — two of them wearing headscarves — are among the students. “Twenty of the 25 students come from the Grand Mosque of Paris. Among them is Abdelkader Khali, a 52-year-old computer specialist born in France. This future chaplain, son and grandson of French officiers, wants to defend ‘an open, tolerant and enlightened Islam’ in the army.”

The imam training project never got off the ground at the Sorbonne and the other section of the University of Paris because professors there thought it would violate laïcité, France’s legal separation of church and state. But from the start, the project foresaw all theological training at the Grand Mosque of Paris. The university was meant to teach secular subjects, such as French law, history and sociology. The idea was that the university education would round out the Islamic training the imams got at the Grand Mosque and give them a recognised university degree. It sounded like a reasonable idea, but laïcité got in the way.