Europe should show the Muslim scientists and thinkers’ precedence in setting the basics of science and helping Europe out of the dark ages.
Casablanca – Reflecting on educational curricula in Europe, it is irrefutable that many countries have failed to integrate and give equal opportunities to all their citizens, especially those of Arab descent. As child-centered learning has become a focus of modern education, do European school curricula treat every child fairly?
Why do some European cities have “marginal neighborhoods,” and who lives in them? The inhabitants are the children of migrants (mostly) or of poor locals, as is the case in France. But do schools and curricula treat this class of the French society fairly?
The students whose parents are immigrants—whether Moroccans, Tunisians, Algerians, or others—feel they are not equal when they enroll in the French public schools, for example.
On the one hand, they suffer from the huge gap between their schools and their identity, creed, religion, and culture, which sometimes may lead to schizophrenia. The principles they follow at home are different from those they live with on the street and at school.
In their houses, they see and follow the habits and rituals established of their Arab Islamic identity and that of their parents, an identity that links them with their parents origins in North Africa.
This connection, though sometimes partial, is fueled by the rituals of feasts and weddings. It is mixed with favorable ancient cultural traditions, which everyone, even the French people themselves, admire—such as clothes, food, beverages, and folk songs.
But when these students leave their houses for school, they find themselves in another world totally different from their homes, especially while riding the bus or train with other strangers. Many questions may enter their minds, questions they may still not have found adequate answers for after years, like the following questions.
Why do they see me as a foreigner?
If these customs mom and dad follow in our house are important, why is there no evidence of them on the streets, and why is there no strong reflection of them on the walls wherever I go?
Why do people look at me as a foreigner although I dwell in their midst and was born in the same neighborhood hospital?
Why does my school, with its halls, colors, pictures, plays, library, and even its restaurant, playground, and games, make me feel that it is completely Western, and there is no place for me or other cultures? Why does it make me feel as if I am a foreigner who cannot be equal to the other children even though I work hard and change my hairstyle, my hair color, or even my style? Am I not a citizen of this country?
Isn’t religion part of freedom of belief? So why am I not allowed to worship God freely on the street and at school as I wish, or to wear, eat, and drink whatever I want as long as it does not harm others?
My beloved friends and neighbors claim they love and admire my culture and identity because we are different! So, why don’t I experience that feeling among people on the streets, buses and trains, or even in my school curricula?
Do people feel embarrassed to show that? They are sometimes really honest, and their eyes show how much they enjoy grilled meals, “tajine,” or “couscous” in Moroccan restaurants or when invited by Moroccan friends into their homes. So why don’t they circulate such joy and happiness and the sense of positive diversity?
Arab contributions to Europe
Their fathers worked hard, and their mothers were consumed with constructing the infrastructure of this country. Their relatives even worked in mines, where they constantly suffered from stuffy noses, and in steel plants, where the heat was unbearable. Meanwhile, their French peers detested such professions, were not up to the physical task, or were unwilling to work under such conditions of very high or low temperatures.
So why can’t they find anything written about these brave people in European school curricula and textbooks?
My ancestors’ military forces from Morocco and Algeria responded to the French army’s appeal and joined them to defend French territory.
They participated in the Sino-Indian War in 1954, and many of our soldiers died.
Have any historical landmarks been established for them? Have they been fairly treated and honored? Have their families received the proper compensation? Were they even mentioned in the history books we study in Europe?
Many times students may hear their teachers talk about the greatness of Islamic civilization in Andalusia and great Muslim scientists, such as Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd, Ibn al-Haytham, Jabir Ibn Hayyan, al-Khwarizmi, and others.
The question that still puzzles me is why their names were changed to Western names. Ibn Sina became Avicenna and Ibn Rushd became Averroes, for example. I wonder again: Why don’t I find the names of our Arab and Muslim scientists, philosophers, and thinkers in the books that I carry on my back, books that most of the time give all the praise to European and Western thinkers?
The sense of injustice
These are some of the questions that still haunt many children in this social class. It is why this class, although living in communities that proclaim freedom, democracy, and human rights, still feels injustice. They see great architectural landmarks constructed by their fathers and ancestors, and even by their daughters and sons, without bearing their names. History did not do justice to the efforts of all these people.
Successive governments tried to turn the leaf on this particular chapter in history, and people have called for their deportation whenever they raise their voices or whenever there is sympathy for them from those with consciences.
So what is the missing puzzle piece in the European school curricula? If Europe finds the piece and puts the puzzle together properly, it will create a completed and effective image. If Europe completes the puzzle, it will embody the most successful nations in integrating their workforces in the good sense of “integration.”
European curricula and schools would become a model to follow. For that to happen, Europe must bridge the gap between Europe and newly-immigrated community members.
How to bridge the gap
Europe should recognize, through school curricula and laws, that worship is a religious freedom and should not be subject to any hatred, contempt, coercion, or intolerance.
To do justice to the Arab community, Europe should remember the glories and contributions of Arab parents and ancestors in building the nation, whether in literary, artistic, or theatrical works.
Curricula should fairly integrate the Islamic civilization and other civilizations into textbooks by including some of its excerpts.
Europe should show the Muslim scientists and thinkers’ precedence in setting the basics of science and helping Europe out of the dark ages. This should be evident in all European school curricula to pay due tribute and present these people as role models.
Textbooks should do justice to Muslim and Arab inventors and those from other civilizations and mention their names without any bigotry to any country, person, or religion.
Europeans must stress the importance of coexistence, tolerance, and moderation in worship through school curricula and the media, without underestimating, preference for any belief. People should have the freedom to find the truth and gain knowledge by themselves.
Curricula should focus on “intercultural competence” as a skill which leads to “cross-cultural understanding.”
Schools should hold awareness courses, encouraging gratefulness for the different minorities in Europe and enhancing the principles of coexistence and tolerance, in order for the marginalized class to regain its dignity and position.
Europe should promote the study of foreign languages with objectivity and appreciation, including Arabic, and encourage students who speak these languages as being “windows” onto other cultures. This would reduce the gap between Arab nations and Europe.
Let’s prioritize reason
Curricula should include “ethics” as a basic subject in all educational stages. This was the case in Morocco, where schools introduced “great generations” and good examples of humility, learning, and morality. What is the use of education if we have a generation without ethics?
Leaders should review the current European school curricula and remove anything that calls for hatred, extremism, fanaticism, disdainfulness, or underestimating the ability or dignity of others, replacing it with everything that is positive.
It is time to reconsider curricula, not only in Europe to reduce the phenomenon of Islamophobia, but also in the Arab and Muslim world itself. It is time to prioritize reason and logic in choosing curricula.
If we succeed, we will overcome all violence. The principles of reason, said German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, “are the backbone and the spirit of inference and are as necessary to it as muscles and nerves are to the phenomenon of walking.”
If Europe and the Arab and Islamic countries successfully integrate ethics and cross-cultural competence in school curricula, they will be able to build generations who naturally renounce violence, respect one another, and love what is good for all.
These generations would be well prepared to coexist without hatred, humiliation, or denigration. They would be aware the world is already a small village, in which the integrity and safety of all members regardless of ideological, cultural, and social differences must be maintained.
In short, it should be a village where love and brotherhood prevail over deception and corruption, where morality overcomes immorality, where peace replaces war, and where uncontaminated curricula replace devious and stereotyped textbooks.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial views.
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