Choose ONE


It’s confusing. There’s this college in Dundee, called the Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education. Its

aim is the promotion of intelligent debate and understanding of Islam and the role of Muslims in the contemporary world. We are a place of knowledge and reflection on the issues facing a diverse and multicultural world in the twenty-first century.

Ok. But then you look at its Multiculturalism Course.

The programme aims to explore in depth the concept of multiculturalism, with specific reference to the development of the concept in academic studies (particularly the past 15 years). The main understanding of the term  ‘multiculturalism’ for this programme is as a means to describe contemporary contexts of cultural and religious diversity, and the processes by which such diversity are experienced (by individuals, societies and countries) and managed (by nation states).

You begin to wonder. You keep reading.

Optional Course 1

Choose one course, subject to availability, from:

  • The Theoretical Framework of Bayt al-Maqdis
  • Islam & Muslims in History & Society
  • Educational Studies: An Introduction

Islam & Muslims in Multicultural Britain

This course examines the historical and demographic developments of the Muslim presence in the UK. It places them in the context of the emergence of a politics of multiculturalism in the past 50 years, along with the processes of settlement and integration of diverse ethnic, religious and cultural minority communities, and their relations with wider society. A major theme of the course is the diversity of British Muslim identities, and communities and the social, cultural and political contexts in which they have developed.

Optional Course 2

Choose one course, subject to availability, from:

  • Globalisation & Political Islam
  • Islam & Muslims & International Relations
  • Islamic Education: Theory & Practice
  • History of Bayt al-Maqdis 2: From the Late Crusades to the Contemporary Era
  • Women in Islam

And now you feel thoroughly confused. The course as a whole is about multiculturalism, but the choices on offer are about exactly one “culture.” Why is that?

And is “Islam” the best “culture” (or religion) to focus on if you’re trying to understand multiculturalism? I ask because Islam itself is firmly opposed to multiculturalism and pluralism; Islam makes it a crime deserving the death sentence to leave Islam for a different “culture” or religion.

So it’s confusing.

 

Comments

  1. John Morales says

    Well, not so confusing, if you take their viewpoint, i.e. that there are two cultures: Islam & Muslims, and non-Islam & Muslims.

    (Kinda the viewpoint Christendom used to have, back in the day)

  2. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    I wouldn’t mind taking the Globalisation & Political Islam course. But then I’m professionally interested in globalization.

  3. says

    It makes sense to me. It’s a study of how the development and adoption of multiculturalism in “the West” has affected the Islamic diaspora there. It’s not about how multiculturalism might be developed and adopted in Islamic countries (though this could also be an interesting subject for study and might be covered in the “Globalisation & Political Islam” course, for example).

  4. says

    Ibis – yes, that could be. But the course is titled just “Multiculturalism.” So the college doesn’t exactly say up front that it’s about that plus, or that in one particular context.

  5. Niall Anderson says

    I think it’s worth pointing out that students on that programme take 6 courses through the year, 4 of which are compulsory and the remaining 2 are picked from the list of optional courses above. They may then also complete a dissertation. Hence the 2 optional courses probably make up about 22% of a full year’s activity, if they are using the standard course credit system common in Scottish institutions. I also note that this is a tiny institution – 5 academic staff, 2 teaching fellows, 3 honorary fellows – those optional courses are probably just elements from their remaining programmes and therefore what their small number of staff can teach! So I wouldn’t think it is a major problem – the lack of breadth due to size is probably more of an issue. I cant really understand why they have been allowed to progress to college status. They are a research centre ( and a small one) at most, by any reasonable measure.

  6. says

    This is in bloody Scotland, ffs! The First Minister is one Alex Salmond (a wee bit like a governor in a US state). Write to him! I thought only the English came at this sort of thing…

  7. John Horstman says

    I don’t find this odd at all: the “Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education” is looking at Islam in the context of multiculturalism. The reason that they’re looking at Islam in a Western context is that “multiculturalism” is a thoroughly Western Liberal discourse; one COULD certainly examine the influence of that discourse on Muslim nations through globalization – a couple of my Global Studies courses did this – but it’s not really out of place that they’re not. Any academic program is going to have limited focus and an agenda – if they all had to cover everything in their broad area of study, it would take over a decade to complete an undergrad degree. They’re obviously approaching the subject from an Islam-in-the-West perspective, which is entirely fitting with their college as a whole, being an Islamic academic institution in the West (from their ‘about us’ section, which you link: “Our aim is the promotion of intelligent debate and understanding of Islam and the role of Muslims in the contemporary world”).

    Also:

    The course as a whole is about multiculturalism, but the choices on offer are about exactly one ‘culture.’ Why is that?

    Again, they really aren’t: they’re about one ‘culture’ in relation to others (that inherently necessitates the study of overlapping cultural discourses), which is what any course in multiculturalism is, since it is, by necessity, taught within a specific cultural context and inflected/biased by that context (a course in Islam and Globalization at my university, for example, is taught from a Western – Liberal American Academic, to be more specific – perspective, as it takes place in a Western academic institution and must adhere to the standards and practices of that institution, even if the professor is Druze Lebanese).

    I ask because Islam itself is firmly opposed to multiculturalism and pluralism; Islam makes it a crime deserving the death sentence to leave Islam for a different ‘culture’ or religion.

    Well, sure, in the same way Christianity or most other organized religions are. I assume you’re aware that various people accept and reject different tenets of their religions, that ‘official’ doctrines for any major religion are constantly contested and in flux (hence all of the multiple denominations and sub-denominations of any particular ‘religion’), and that there are therefore strains of “Islam” that embrace ecumenicism, plurality, secular government, multiculturalism, etc. I suppose it’s possible that you’re actually ignorant of these facts, but as someone who looks at the operation of various religions a lot, I have to assume you’re not, which means you’re presenting a disingenuous ignorance in order to try to make a point. Your point seems to be prescribing some sort of weird self-evidently-false (self-evident to everyone but the faithful, who necessarily essentialize/naturalize their particular construction of orthodoxy) notion of religious essentialism; you seem to be constructing an essentialist orthodox straw man because it’s easier to deal with than the complex extant reality of Islamic heterodoxy. This is bad form for an argument; I think you’d be better off with something along the lines of, “It’s nice to see a relatively-progressive Islamic academic institution with a program on multiculturalism, but I wish they’d ditch the term ‘Islamic’, which provides cover to the loud minority/plurality(/majority?) of Muslims who support notions of cultural and legal imperialism.”

  8. says

    they’re about one ‘culture’ in relation to others (that inherently necessitates the study of overlapping cultural discourses), which is what any course in multiculturalism is, since it is, by necessity, taught within a specific cultural context and inflected/biased by that context

    Yes but such courses don’t then go on to list

    •Globalisation & Political Christianity
    •Christianity & Christians & International Relations
    •Christian Education: Theory & Practice
    •History of New York 2: From the Pilgrims to the Contemporary Era
    •Women in Christianity

    as their sole offerings.

    Well, sure, in the same way Christianity or most other organized religions are.

    No, not in the same way. “Apostasy” in Islam is a capital crime.

  9. Niall Anderson says

    Ophelia,

    Just wanted to dip back in to this to say that the list of courses you give in the OP ( and pastiche in 9) aren’t their “sole offerings”. The students on this take the following 4 compulsory courses:
    Multiculturalism in theory and practice
    Case studies in multiculturalism
    Islam and Muslims in multicultural Britain
    Postgraduate research methods.

    They then pick 2 courses from the other options (the ones you list plus one or two others). It seems to me that this range of material is much more balanced than you have been saying. I think you may have been misled by UK – US differences in postgraduate education? That’s not to say that all of the options seem directly relevant – this is where the small size of the institute works against the students.

    I have no connection to this institution and no idea whether what they teach is reasonable or outrageous – just sharing my thoughts on the paper description of the programme.

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