Islamic studies in schools to be reviewed to emphasise universal values and humanity, says Anwar

KUALA LUMPUR: There should be better understanding of religions among the masses to ensure the survival of a multiracial and multireligious Malaysia, says Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The Prime Minister also stated that Islamic civilisation studies are long overdue in the national curriculum.

He stated that the Islamic religious studies currently being taught in schools and higher education institutions should be reviewed to ensure that universal values and humanity are taught so as to avoid students from blindly following those who claim authority.

He said this at the launch of the book "Knowledge, Tradition and Civilisation: Essays in honour of Professor Osman Bakar at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation-International Islamic University Malaysia (Istac-IIUM) here Thursday (Jan 26).

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“There are suggestions from scholars such as Professor Osman who stated that the Islamic religious studies being taught in schools must be re-looked at and reviewed to ensure that what is taught gives a better understanding of the issues of values, character and universal humanity values. These have to be emphasised.

“This is so because many a time, Islam is taught by quoting authorities and fatwas are issued (by authorities) based on their own understanding. Sometimes, when we question (the fatwas), they said that it is not right (to do so).

“If the main teachers take a wrong action, it must be questioned. Just because that person is a head of a political party, that does not mean all his statements are right. Islam did not teach us to do so (follow blindly).

“Islamic religious education should be based on deep understanding of the Quran, sunnah (traditions and practices of Prophet Muhammad) and the earliest of ulamas. The interpretations must be questioned and corrected if need be. That is the tradition of seeking knowledge,” said Anwar.

Although Anwar did not mention any names of political parties, it is likely he was referring to PAS leaders, as some of them are also known as “ulamas” among their followers.

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Earlier in his speech before the launching of the book, Anwar said that there must be continuous engagement between different religions to ensure harmony in the country between races and religions.

"The pursuit of civilisational dialogue is necessary for survival of a multireligious and multiracial country.

"We must also be wary of forced goals in top universities in Malaysia as they must have both soul and excellence. It is not enough to have soul but no excellence or excellence and no soul.

"Character and ethics are both important in education.

"Islamic civilisation too is long overdue in the national curriculum at all levels," said Anwar.

Also present at the event were Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin and top heads of IIUM.

The book, edited by Professor Dr Syed Khairuddin Aljunied is a collection of essays by 25 distinguished individuals from all over the world in honour of Professor Osman, including an essay by Anwar.

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